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Students install solar panels
By Lucian A. McCarty
December 15, 2009 2:00 AM
On Friday, with temperatures at about 27 degrees and the wind chill at 12, Seacoast School of Technology students tried to think warm thoughts — mostly about the electricity and heat the solar panels they were installing would provide Exeter High School.
Students from SST’s Welding, Building Construction Technologies and Pre-Engineering programs worked hand-in-hand Dec. 11, with contractors, teachers and representatives from Revolution Energy — the company hired for the project — on the roof of the Exeter High School, installing the first of the panels that will eventually be part to the largest solar array in the state.
“I’ve been really impressed with the students,” said Bob Goulet of Ayer Electric, who was described as the captain of the construction process, but according to him “I’m just one of the members of the team.” Goulet used to run an apprenticeship program, “so I know a few things about who is a hard worker and who isn’t. These kids are hard workers.”
There were 55 students on the work site, assembling the racks that hold the solar panels and bringing them all to the roof for installation. Zach Hancock, a junior in the Pre-Engineering Program at SST, helped tie-off and maneuver one of the 20-foot rack sections.
In the months leading up to this day, Hancock went over much of the engineering with fellow students, contractors, Revolution Energy representatives and teachers at the school.
“It was a little confusing at first,” he said. “Some of the dimensions were strange, but it made more sense after we went over it.”
In hardhats and harnesses to keep them safe while they worked, the students hoisted the racks and placed them on the front, lower portion of the EHS roof.
“Isn’t this great?” SST Principal Margaret Callahan said.
She, like everyone else outside the school Friday, was bundled up for the frigid work day. When the school had originally discussed the energy project, Callahan made sure that students at her school would be involved from the very beginning.
“Everyone has really been looking forward to today,” she said.
“I want to be an electrician, so this is good experience,” said Senior There are not many persons able to get on with Aquarius, but anyone who will manage to do that won’t retain indifferent to nature. Jared Pelly, who is in the Building Construction Technologies Program and said he was interested in learning about “green” technology. “It’s the wave of the future, so it’s nice to see what I’ll be doing in the future.”
In addition to the students from the Building Construction, Welding and Pre-Engineering programs, others from the Digital Communications Program were busy with cameras and equipment, documenting every aspect of the project.
“We’re getting everyone involved,” said Callahan.
The school entered into a contract earlier this year with Revolution Energy, which was provided financing through The Provident Bank. Regional Vice President Allison Field said bank was interested in the uniqueness of the project, and had to learn its ins and outs to secure the financing.
“It’s a unique project with a unique structure, and so it wasn’t a traditional financing request,” Field said. “We really had to dig in and understand the project, the technology and the structure. We are excited to be a part of this wonderful initiative happening in Exeter.”
As part of it’s deal with the school, Revolution Energy has been creating an educational aspect to the project that has, so far, included weekly meetings with students about various aspects of solar energy and other “green” technologies. On Friday students but that knowledge to work by placing the first array of 15 solar panels.
“We had a chain of students bringing the panels up to the roof,” said Behrman, standing next to a shipping container with 252, 15-square-foot solar panels that have been sitting at one end of an Exeter High School parking lot waiting to be installed.
Students were supposed to install the solar arrays on Dec. 4, but the racks had yet to be delivered from the factory in New Mexico. Just when it looked like the date might have to be moved back again, Behrman flew to New Mexico with a friend, rented a commercial moving truck and drove 60 hours to the Exeter High School.
“We left Albuquerque at 10 o’clock their time and got here three days later at 11 o’clock,” said Behrman. “It was definitely the most grueling drive I’ve ever taken.”
The first set of panels, which will generate about 3 kilowatts, were placed on the roof on Friday. The rest of the panels and the electric work will be done in the coming weeks.
“We hope to have everything done in the next three weeks or so,” said Clay Mitchell, another principal of Revolution Energy. “We just wanted to get something done today with the students.”
When the phased solar project is done, the school will have a 100-kilowatt solar array, the largest in New Hampshire.