With the help of a local contractor, they were able to not only plan the construction of the panels, but supplemental computer programs as well!
The environmental club at Winona Senior High School resolved to take action after growing tired of simply talking about clean energy technologies. They enlisted the help of a social studies teacher, Dwayne Voegeli, and proposed their idea to the school board: to install a solar photovoltaic (PV) system with a data logging website as an educational component.
Jim Jarvis, an employee of APRS World, a small locally-owned company that specializes in data logging and control equipment primarily for the renewable energy industry, helped plan and implement the system. This system facilitates learning both in and outside of the classroom, Jarvis explains: “In addition to an outside structure, the project includes a computer monitor, a web page, and display boards inside the school that explain the mechanics and physics of the solar panel. It displays how much power is being created, and how much carbon and other greenhouse gases are being offset. It could be viewed as a very advanced textbook or computer-learning program for students.”
While the Winona High environmental club eventually achieved success with the project, it wasn’t easy to see how it would come together initially. Voegeli explains, “This process has been very rewarding and very frustrating. The paperwork and other requirements are tough on everyone… but it got done.”
Indeed, it got done… and then some! Voegeli says that the school has installed a second solar panel that will also act as a bike shelter, and he hopes the renewable energy trend continues: “One day I hope to hit a critical mass where a very large and real investment can be made in these renewable energy sources that will make our small project-by-project approach obsolete.”
Dan Thiede is the Communications Coordinator for the Clean Energy Resource Teams, or CERTs, at the University of Minnesota. CERTs works to advance the adoption of renewable energy and energy efficiency projects in communities across Minnesota by helping people learn, connect, and act.