Solar Panel Seeks The Future At Somers High School

Local High School uses Solar Power System to Energize Learning in its Students
Solar Panel Seeks the Future at Somers High School
Source - Rich Monetti

In early 2015, Governor Pataki set a goal by 2020 to have15% of all schools utilizing renewable energy. The accompanying program was called K-solar, and its official launch last spring probably went unnoticed by many in Somers - despite the proximity of the announcement.
“New York State considers Somers High School a leader in solar power so they came here to kick off the program,” says Somers High School Earth Science Teacher Brian Hugick in referring to the two solar power arrays on school grounds.
Looking back, Hugick’s background in construction provided the reflection he needed to turn

his interest in the environment and sustainability into a renewable reality. “I saw that New York State was starting a solar power pilot program and Assistant Principal Kenneth Crowley gave me the go ahead,” says Hugick of the first array set up in 2002.
Hugick put together the proposal, and the high school received a grant from NYSERDA.  “The two kilowatt system can light up two or three classrooms and/or the computer room,” says the 15 year Somers teacher. 
Coming in at a cost of $2,000 and expected to last at least 20 years, the setup simply involved feeding the Solar DC current to an AC current converter, and feeding two 20 amp circuits into the circuit board.  
To make the system more accessible to the curriculum, Hugick had it positioned on the ground. “A lot of people put them on the roof and educators can’t show them to anyone,” he says. 
Renewable energy one of the topics, the glare on the south side of the grounds crystalizes the concept of nuclear fusion.  “It helps in discussing how a photon of energy is absorbed and produced,” says Hujick.
Otherwise, system data is stored online in Albany
and records daily solar output, energy output, wind speed and air temperature. This, for instance, lets students can get their hands on the concept of maximum sunlight and the yearly cycles that position the sun in the sky.  “It’s nice to show them the data, and how the information supports the daily cycle,” says Hugick.
Beyond the classroom, sustainability and environmental science clubs piggyback on Hugick’s initiative. “It really helps make sense of what they are trying to achieve,” he says. 
Pragmatics become part of the exercise too. Sunlight diminished in winter, solar power can become unworkable – until the cold winds are added in. “So for a homeowner, a smaller wind turbine can make the system self-sustainable,” he says. 
Somers, on the other hand, is not currently on that path – hitting their peak power in 2009 when NYSERDA provided for a 50 kilowatt roof array that accounts for .5% of the school’s energy needs.  “We did not qualify for a K-Solar grant because too much of our roof would have to be replaced – making the project unviable,” said Crowley. 
Thus leaving others to pick up where Somers is currently forced to leave off, Crowley is sure that the program energizes the students. “I see how kids are inspired – especially through the various green and environmental clubs that deal with energy and sustainability,” he concludes. 

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