Solar Shades Athens Middle School, Ohio


Athens, Ohio was the site of a perfect storm – a perfect solar storm. Dr. Paul Grippa, principal of Athens Middle School, received a call a few years ago to see if he was interested in getting a solar system installed on his school. “Absolutely!“ “American Electric Power donated the solar panels as part of AEP’s Learning from Light Initiative and the project took off,” according to Glen Kizer, President of the Foundation for Environmental Education.


The 1kw system had panels donated by American Electric Power. This install was funded in part with an Athens Foundation Grant. Third Sun Solar& Wind Ltd – also of Athens, donated the labor. Third Sun now has over 100 system installations under their belt in Ohio. When I asked Geoff Greenfield, president of the company, where they came up with the name, he answered, “Michelle and I had two boys when we started – the company was our third..”


Ben Appleby, Executive Director of Sierra Club’s Appalachian Ohio group had volunteers there to help with the installation. Mr. Appleby, a project manager for Third Sun, spearheaded the project. One observer notes, “The project would never have gotten off the ground without Ben’s interest in giving something back to the local community in order to educate our youth about the impact of our energy choices on the environment, and his ability to work with all of the individuals and organizations that made this possible.”

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And what and impact the project has made! The Ohio Sierra Club website quotes science teacher Dylan Crawford, “Now solar power is more than a picture in our textbooks, its right here on the side of our school making power that we can actually use.”

During the installation, Geoff Greenfield observed, “The Ohio state science curriculum actually has a renewable energy component – so the science teachers were really excited to have this teaching tool on their building!”

Ohio State Science Academic Content Standards for grades 6-8:
C. Describe renewable and nonrenewable sources of energy (e.g., solar, wind, fossil fuels, biomass, hydroelectricity, geothermal and nuclear energy) and the management of these sources.

The school has real-time data monitoring:

Students, staff, and the public can log on to see how much power is being generated. Variables such as temperature, length of day, clouds and air quality can be explored. Greenhouse emissions avoided and historical data can also be viewed.

Dedicated September 25, 2006, Mayor Ric Abel, Commisioners Mark Sullivan and Bill Theisen, Councilwoman Debbie Phillips, school staff, students and parents were there to celebrate.

*Historical pictures courtesy of the City of Athens photo gallery.

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