Solar Panels on School Roofs: Illuminating light bulbs in the mind and in your home!
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Are your lights flickering yet? Let’s face it energy supply is an issue facing everyone on the planet especially with a growing population and increased individual usage. Energy efficiency has come a long way but with cell phones, lap tops, mp3 players, and other personal devices any savings have been erased. So do we use less energy? Drill for more oil? Go cold turkey on fossil fuels? Or just let the lights go out one drop at a time? So many options and each have their own pros and cons, some involve issues of security, others the environment and still some would even impact our very own health. I believe it will take an amalgamation of different approaches to get anywhere securely. A comprehensive energy plan to wean off our heroin like addiction to fossil fuels while embracing new technologies and alternative lifestyles will work. This issue is too complicated and elaborate to fit into one article; however I would like to discuss one idea that may help mend a bridge between our problems and a solution.
So here is part of my idea, it came to me when driving by one of the local elementary schools. As I drove by I realized the roof of the entire school is not only flat and one story but mostly empty. So the light went off in my head, wouldn’t it be great to place solar panels on the top of the schools? Then it dawned on me that this idea, although I'm sure not an original, has so many pros I had to share it. So starting with the obvious, if you place solar panels on the school roof, you supply the school with a good percentage of immediate power. Simple enough and enough of a reason to move forward if not for installation and purchasing cost which can be expensive. Here is where the idea gets even better. Not only would panels serve the immediate energy needs of the school, they could act as an education project for science class or special after school clubs and hopefully inspire a new generation. The benefits do not end here; it happens to be that when the sun is shining the longest as well as at the highest angle school is out for summer break. This means that these empty schools, with panels on the roof, can act as local mini power stations supplying the local area with energy as well as some revenue. Revenue could be achieved by selling power back to the regional power company. If applied to every school in the town or city this could make a huge difference on the economics of the municipality. Although schools would be opportune due to the lack of use during breaks, when the schools can be converted into mini power stations, other city and state buildings could be fitted with solar panels resulting in additional energy to the local power supply. Finally this use of panels on city buildings would shift some of the dependence on global energy supply to local supply, which means not only more security but also more stability.
Although this would not solve all energy concerns and may vary based on local communities, it would help. From the multiple use of the schools as education centers and power plants to the educational value and the security of local power, solar panels on school rooftops has many benefits. The symbolic value of this advance technology resting on the roofs of our schools just seems like the right direction. Why not illuminate the minds of our children in school using the guiding lights of solar energy!
Almost a year after writing this hub about using solar energy in schools, I have come across other articles about it actually happening! The other day I came across this article: The Enlightened Classroom in the Wall Street Journal. The article focuses on schools in California but highlights many of the same issues I address above including budget concerns and teaching opportunities. The article also explains how the growing global solar industry has created a more favorable environment for initiatives like these.
"School districts across the country are turning to solar power to cut their electricity costs. With the money they're saving, they are able to retain more teachers and programs in the face of budget cuts. As a bonus, some schools are using solar installations to teach kids about renewable energy" (Carlton, Wall Street Journal, The Enlightened Classroom, June 18, 2012)
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