After looking into the pros and cons of nine methods of electricity production (including coal, geothermal, biomass, and solar), a group of 9 and 10 year-olds from Central Park School for Children in Durham, North Carolina decided that their classroom should be powered using only energy from the sun. They hit Kickstarter at the beginning of this month with a modest funding goal of just US$800 to help finance the installation of a small PV panel array – a target that was smashed in less than a day.
With the help of their teacher, Aaron Sebens, the 4th-grade students researched system components and requirements that would allow their classroom to go off-grid.
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"We used a Killawatt meter to test how much electricity each appliance in our classroom used and realized we could make our classroom off the grid with a few changes, such as changing from fluorescent to LED lights and changing our desktop computers to laptops," Sebens told Gizmag.
The crowdfunding community grabbed hold of the project almost as soon as it went live on March 5 and just kept throwing money at it. At the close of the funding campaign just over two weeks later, the class project had attracted nearly $6,000 in pledges – enough to pay for a larger-than-planned 1.4 kW PV panel array and a 500-watt wind turbine.
"Our system is a hybrid wind/solar that will generate 1.5 - 2 kW," said the teacher. "Our classroom can run off a 0.5 kW system. We're working with some local electricians and solar installers to help us set up our system so it will be off the grid and then when we get through all the red tape with the power company, it will be grid tied so we can sell the extra electricity back."
Any cash generated from the system will be directed into education projects at the school and local community that relate to renewable energy.
At the time of writing, the students are enjoying spring break. When class resumes in a couple of weeks, the final plans will be discussed and the installation will begin.
The video below shows the students describing how the system will work.
Source: Aaron Sebens' class