Solar energy is energizing classrooms and students at Gulf Breeze High School with a little help from Gulf Power.
Two Gulf Power employees, Shaun Gunter, Product Development specialist, and Lynn Erickson, Education Program manager, volunteered to help seniors with an ambitious Science National Honors Society project at Gulf Breeze High School: Sustainable Future Solar Installation.
On May 22, the sun was performing its job energizing 16-photovoltaic panels when the school held a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the 4,640-watt DC system. Science teacher Erin Cosky, the Honors Society project sponsor and Santa Rosa County Teacher of the Year, said the solar PV system will teach students about solar energy for years to come, and be a community symbol to promote sustainable energy.
Gunter, who served as an energy consultant on the project, pointed out the benefits to the school.
“The residential scale system is able to offset the energy usage load in a school, like the lights, microwave and drink machines in the cafeteria,” he said. “Since the solar energy system is small in comparison to the school’s power usage, all of the power will be used by the school. However, in theory, the solar energy system is connected to the electric grid, and the school does have the ability to sell excess energy back to Gulf Power.”
With guidance from Cosky, the seniors secured major funding from Gulf Breeze Will Do, a woman’s philanthropy nonprofit, and received donations from other partners for the system. With Shaun’s guidance, SunFarm Energy of Pensacola installed the system on the rooftop of a south-facing storage building for the students to see how the system performs.
Erickson, who reached out to Cosky to see how Gulf Power could help with the project, made presentations to her AP Environmental classes during the school year about sustainable energy sources.
“I provided kits for the students to explore solar energy hands-on,” she said. “Shaun was instrumental in changing the design to reduce costs and create a highly visible solar installation on the storage shed.”
Educational materials included workbooks on solar photovoltaic energy and how solar panels are wired and function. Erickson also provides the energy kits to 50 to 100 new teachers in the Gulf Power service area, annually.
Gunter also worked with Corporate Communications on designing educational signage. And with the help of Metering Services, the duo added a decommissioned meter to the project, so students can learn how energy flows to and from the electric grid.
Wei Ueberschaer, president of Gulf Breeze Will Do, was among the guests at the ribbon cutting. She said the nonprofit voted to provide the $9,550 to help fund the $14,000 project because it “resonated” with the membership.
“I personally love the innovation of the project,” she said. “Because it’s a tangible teaching tool where students can go over and see solar energy produced”
Gulf Power’s prior “Solar for Schools” initiative was successful in bringing photovoltaics closer to the classroom. Seven systems were installed at local schools to help educate students about solar energy. Each school’s system is unique as each incorporates different installation or mounting methods. To learn more and view live data from these projects visit www.gulfpower.solarlog-web.net.