High school students put solar to the test

By Ben Delman on October 14, 2018

Greenbrier East High School in Lewisburg is home to the state’s newest solar laboratory. A recent installation will allow students to track how placing solar panels at varying angles changes the amount of electricity the panels generate. Doyle Tenney of DT Solar installed two pole-mounted solar arrays. Each holds six panels. Because they are pole-mounted, students can adjust the angle of the panels.

“The monetary value of the electricity produced by the solar panels will be evaluated by students and compared to the cost of the panels,” said Bruce Rose, a Greenbrier East science teacher. “Solar power is the focus of the [teaching] unit because it is an alternative to fossil fuels that will help society meet energy needs now and in the future. As part of the unit, students make connections between math, science, and technology.”

Adjusting the tilt of solar panels can have a significant impact on their output. Tenney estimates that changing the angle of the panels can enable the system to produce 130%-140% more electricity in winter compared to panels that remain at an optimal summer angle. Adjustable systems like this one come at a higher upfront cost but will ultimately produce more energy over the life of the system, Tenney said.

The school’s new solar installation will be an educational resource beyond the science lab. “Teachers in various subject areas will be encouraged to use the solar arrays as a topic in teaching their content,” Rose said.

Tenney is hopeful the project will spark students’ interest in solar. “[Projects like this are] something I’d like to do throughout the state, Tenney said. As solar continues to grow in West Virginia, he hopes projects like these will encourage more students to join the solar industry. Tenney emphasized the importance of having proper electrical training to become qualified to install solar.

A video of the installation can be viewed here.