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Students help with solar project
By Lucian A. McCarty
November 27, 2009 2:00 AM
EXETER — Last month, contracts for a comprehensive energy project for SAU 16 were signed, finalizing a deal that will bring the largest solar array in the state to Exeter High School.
“It”s taken months to complete, but Mr. Lunney has done a wonderful job of pulling all of the pieces of the deal together,” said Dave Miller, one of the Exeter Region Cooperative School Board members who was put in charge of overseeing the final contract.
In addition to the solar panels, the project also includes installing two, more efficient boilers at the Tuck Learning Campus and New Hampshire”s first micro-turbine at the Seacoast School of Technology. The turbine will both heat the school and harness the excess heat to produce electricity.
The turbine will generate 65 kilowatts of electricity, according to SAU 16 Chief Financial Officer Nathan Lunney. “We”re only using about 65 to 70 kilowatts of energy in the off-hours, so this will almost take us off the grid in the overnight hours,” Lunney said.
When it came time to work out the details of installing the turbine at the school, builders started to brainstorm how they were going to work while having the least impact on student activities. SST Principal Margaret Callahan had other ideas.
“I said come in here and make noise — rip the place apart. This is what we do,” she said.
Indeed, Callahan and members of Revolution Energy — the company facilitating the energy project — have been working students into the construction process in every way they can.
One major part of the project that attracted SAU 16 to Revolution Energy is an educational component, which will draw students into some of the construction process and, in the long-term, create lesson-plans for a wide range of classes, Lunney said.
“I was pleased to see some of the contractors sitting at the table welcoming student involvement,” he said.
“Our students were very involved in the renovation project that ended in June, and our hope is that they will be involved in this project as well,” said Callahan. Students from building construction, pre-engineering, computer programming and welding programs have been meeting regularly with representatives of Revolution Energy to see how their skills will be utilized during the installation process.
On Monday, Nov. 23, students met with Mike Behrman and Clay Mitchell, two principals of the company, who went over aspects not only of the solar project, but energy efficiency and production, in general. The men brought a thermal imaging device with them that is used to evaluate energy efficiency and taught students from their experience about various aspects of wind-power. Students and teachers asked pointed questions.
“That was always part of the plan,” said Mitchell. “When we work with the school, it should be a part of the educational curriculum. We are trying to include as many class focuses as possible into the project.”
That means that when racks need to be welded together to hold the solar panels, it will be SST students joining the metal. When it comes time to install the racks on the roof, SST building construction students will be getting their hands dirty. Pre-engineering students are involved in some of the design aspects of the project. Computer programming students are going to be put to work interpreting some of the data from the solar arrays. Even the digital communications students are filming the entire process from start to finish.
On Dec. 11, students will be joining builders on-site as they work side by side to install 400 solar panels on the roof of Exeter High School. Until then, students are learning every week what the panels will do for the school, how they will be installed and what the students will be doing to help.
“Every day our students are involved in something,” said Callahan. “This is what we do.”