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Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Carson Middle School Goes Solar With New Photovoltaic Panels

Thanks to the efforts of a group of former eighth grade students and its Going Green Club, Carson Middle School recently installed 11 solar panels on the school’s roof. The 2.6 kilowatt system has already generated over 1,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity—enough to power a house for more than a month. Carson Middle School is a Fairfax County public school.

The project was started, in the spring of 2009, by a group of eighth grade students studying solar energy and has been continued by members of the school’s Going Green Club. The entire project was funded by grants from Dominion Power, the Earth Day Network, Lowe’s, and InterfaceFLOR and donations from InScope International, Katydid Inc., the Carson PTA, and individuals. No taxpayer money was used to purchase and install the panels.

The photovoltaic panels are “grid-tied” so the electricity they produce helps power the school while reducing pollution by decreasing the amount of electricity that must be generated by other means.

The original student group coined the name “Carson FREE”—an acronym for Future Renewable Energy Effort—in hopes that solar electric would be just the first of several different forms of renewable energy to be used at the school. Student members of the Going Green Club are currently researching wind, geothermal, solar thermal, and algae oil as future possibilities.

In addition to creating clean energy, the photovoltaic system is used as an educational resource. The system is clearly visible on the roof above the school’s art rooms, and continuous data about the electricity being produced are available online at http://enlighten.enphaseenergy.com/public/systems/Pbf512369. All current eighth grade students have participated in an energy workshop using the new photovoltaic installation and the online data logger. There are numerous connections to the science curriculum and standards of learning in the areas of energy, electricity, and environmental education.

More information about the school’s solar panels can be found at the Carson FREE website at http://carsonfree.synthasite.com/ or on the school’s homepage at http://www.fcps.edu/RachelCarsonMS/.

Kirk Treakle, a former science teacher and current librarian at Carson, is the teacher sponsor of the project.

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Note: For more information, contact principal Augie Frattali at 703-925-3600 or affrattali@fcps.edu or Kirk Treakle at kstreakle@fcps.edu.