This week we bring you the amazing story of a small 1kW solar array installed in 2001 at Muscatine High School. There are so many organizations and people who made this possible, it reminds me of an old-fashioned barn raising! The story does not stop there. Since this installation took place six years ago, you will hear the story of “where are they now” of many of the students involved.
Located on the Northern Banks of the Mississippi River, on the Iowa side of the Iowa/Illinois border is the rural town of Muscatine Iowa. In 2001, the journey began to put an educational 1kW solar array at the high school. John Root, Energy Services Advisor for Muscatine Power and Water described the process: “Round one, we began with Muscatine Power and Water donating and installing wooden utility poles to support the array. After we found two of the poles were shading the array, we chainsawed them to the right height.” Initially the solar array was installed behind the school, fenced off and out of sight. Three years later there was a need to install a communications tower where the array had been put. The entire system was relocated in front of the school, making the students and community more conscious of the presence of solar at the school.
“Now the solar array helps power the school’s LED sign .” Since the installation, the idea has sparked several systems to sprout up nearby. Root reports, “We call this ‘Solar Row.’ Muscatine Power and Water, and All Steel Inc. have each installed larger PV aray’s and Hoffman Inc. has installed a solar-thermal system.”
The Muscatine High Installation team was made up of approximately 10 high school students, and 10 community members. They installed the entire system in only 2 days! Mornings were spent in a workshop/ learning environment, while assembly took place in the afternoons.
Randy Teed, a senior in high school who worked on the installation said, “This was a real world experience – implementing the solar array” A majority of the high school installation team went on to be part of the Iowa State Electrathon team in college. This is a highschool team that builds and races electric cars under a very specific set of rules.
Currently studying engineering in college and a summer intern for Muscatine Power and Water, Teed states: “This project got me to where I am today.” While finishing his degree, he is also working on his Certified Energy Manager (CEM) certification, and going for his North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP). http://www.nabcep.org/
Clearly inspired by the thought of clean renewable energy, these high school students are going far. Geoff Greenfield of Third Sun Solar & Wind Power firmly believes in solar in schools. “Solar in schools is planting seeds. These will be our next Senators, Congressmen…. policymakers. These systems have great educational value and offer the opportunity for a hands-on experience.” Third Sun Solar & Wind Power did the installation.
Many organizations and people need to be recognized for their part in the process:
- Glen Kizer from the Foundation for Environmental Education provided the panels
- John Root and Gary Wieskamp of Muscatine Power and Water – coordination of project and donation and installation of poles
- Wayne Engle of ESCO Electric donated the inverter
- Third Sun Solar & Wind Power (http://www.third-sun.com/) Geoff and Michelle Greenfield coordinated the installation
- Iowa Department of Natural Resources – donated a $7,000 kiosk that explains solar and the energy being generated by the system (a kiosk Mr. Root designed)
- High school students and community members for there donation of time and labor
- Muscatine Schools donated the land for the array
This is a great solar school success story. Just this past school year the solar array was continuing to ignite the spark in students. According to the Muscatine Journal, a local newspaper, “The (school) Board received a thank you from Muscatine High School senior Ryan Kral, who said he was pleased the Board has been supportive of placing solar panels at the high school and encouraging students who build cars powered by solar energy. Those students hold annual exhibitions called Electrathon race, where High School and College students from throughout the region bring their schools electric cars to race.”