Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Local News

December 19, 2011

Mount View solar energy project first of its kind

WELCH — Students at Mount View High School will be beginning a renewable energy project today aimed at learning more about solar energy and incorporating it into their local community, one of the first of its kind in the nation.

Edward Evans, athletic director for the school, said the school will be mounting 22 250-watt solar panels on top of the school for students to use for research purposes. The program may also allow the school to become a demonstration site for future solar energy projects.

“What the kids will do is become solar energy experts,” Evans said. “We like that Mount View can become a demonstration site. Schools, businesses and other organizations can come in to see what solar energy is all about and to see solar demonstrations. We will be able to walk people out onto the roof to see the panels themselves. Solar energy isn’t new and is used all over the place, but it is not used like we will use it. This is an opportunity for the average citizen to see if solar energy is something economical to do in their home. People can tour it and see if it is something they want to be involved with. The kids involved will be the ones giving the presentations to these people coming in to see the site. This will make people aware of all that can be done with solar energy. It is a huge project. This is a big deal. No school has what we will have.”

Evans said the project will be conducted by students with Mount View’s Health Sciences and Technology Academy (HSTA), a West Virginia math and science educational enrichment program aimed ninth through twelfth grade students. The HSTA program also provides college scholarship opportunities for students as well as resources for getting in and through college.

“To be in HSTA group, you have to participate in a HSTA major research project,” Evans said. “Over the years, our groups have done many projections. They have studied bats in West Virginia or ozone layers in West Virginia. This year, the grant will help us incorporate solar energy into the class room and the panels help to produce solar energy during the day.”

According to Evans, the around 50 students in the program will initially harness solar energy to power laptops as well as collect information for research projects.

“Right now the project is powering the laptops,” he said. “We could plug other things into the solar energy since it is a regular outlet. We are starting with the laptops and as the project goes along, we will see what else we can do. This is really three different projects. The HSTA kids will be working on these projects. One will be studying the optimum time of day to collect solar energy. They will also study ozone level through the weather station. We will be able to correlate humidity and how much solar energy is collected depending on the humidity, how much light is reflected back based on the amount of precipitation is air. We will also be seeing the amount of brown level ozone in the air in our area and what conditions produce the best ozone. Nobody is collecting this kind of data. We aren’t sure what we will do with this data, though we do know there are several universities interested in what data we find. These kids are going to be doing real-world research.”

The project was funded through a $45,000 grant Evans said would not have been possible without the aid of the several people and entities dedicated to bringing the project to Mount View.

“We were able to secure $45,000 through the U.S. Department of Energy through the West Virginia Department of Energy, Marshall University and several other entities,” Evans said. “We were approached by the Department of Energy and Rachel Lester, the former economic development director for McDowell County, helped us get the grant money. In fact, Rachel was really the initiator of the project. The grant money has to be used on a reclaimed mine site, which Mount View is, so we qualified for that. I immediately thought this would be a great project for the HSTA project. George Carico, an environmental manager with Marshall University, was able to put the grant together with us and we were funded for the project. The McDowell County Board of education was kind enough to support us for this and provide money up front, which was be reimbursed by Marshall. They were great in taking a leap of faith in us.”

The solar panels are to be mounted today around noon at Mount View High School and Evans said students will be collecting data for research as soon as possible. For more information about the HSTA program, visit www.wv-hsta.org.

— Contact Kate Coil at

kcoil@bdtonline.com

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