By Emmy Addison, Class of 2014
Feb. 14, 2014 — OVS third graders journeyed to the Upper Campus today on a mission to learn more about the solar project now powering the high school campus. The students have just finished a science unit on energy and teacher Angela McHale thought it would be beneficial to show the third graders an energy source generated right up the road.
“This goes hand in hand with what we were studying,” Ms. McHale said. “They got to see up close how this energy system works.”
AP Environmental Science teacher John Wickenhaeuser, who played a leading role in the installation of the solar panels, got to be an elementary teacher for a day, leading the students on a tour of the project, which he explained is now generating more than 100% of the campus’ electrical energy. The students had the opportunity to walk down amongst the panels, peaking underneath them and touching their dark blue surfaces as waves of shimmering heat swept the air.
Mr. Wickenhaeuser explained to the students that the field of panels generates 1,300 kilowatts hours of electricity a day, or enough to run more than 50 houses, or all of the houses of all of the families in the elementary division of the school.
“On my computer I can look and see how much electricity this one is making right now,” Mr. Wickenhaeuser explained as the students examined a field of panels marked Hillside 10.
The project was launched nearly two years ago in partnership with HelioPower and Southern California Edison. It cost $1.5 million, but the school spent much less after taking advantage of grants and rebates.
The students peppered Mr. Wickenhaeuser with good questions, including whether the panels generate electricity when it rains and how much the solar panels cost.
“That’s a good math question,” Mr. Wickenhaeuser said. “Who can figure it out? Each panel cost about $400, and there are 1,000 panels.”
It took a bit, but the students eventually came up with a cost of $400,000 for the panels.
“Is that smart money to spend?” Mr. Wickenhaeuser asked the students.
“Yes,” third grader Ida Tully-Giles affirmed. “You are getting energy from the sun to power buildings.”
Added classmate Caleb Carver: “It saves electricity and keeps us from burning fossil fuels.”