Chiles Elementary to Harness Energy From The Sun
The New Tampa School was awarded solar panels at no charge, thanks to Tampa Electric and the Florida Solar Energy Center.
Science teacher Sharon Cutler has always considered her school, Lawton Chiles Elementary, environmentally conscious.
As one of the top recycling schools in Hillsborough County, for example, they recycle approximately 2,600 pounds of refuse each week.
Among their achievements now? The New Tampa educational facility recently won a 10-kilowatt solar array from Tampa Electric and the Florida Solar Energy Center (FSEC), a research institute of the University of Central Florida. It was installed last month.
Cutler said she wrote a proposal 6 years ago for the panels.
“It took awhile, yes,” she said, “but I did a happy dance when they let me know we were going to receive the panels.”
Chiles is only the second elementary school to receive the panels, Cutler said. The ground-floor panels save the school about $160 a month on its utility bill and a solar array with similar capabilities would cost a homeowner about $45,000, said TECO spokeswoman Cherie Jacobs. The installation for Chiles was free.
Perhaps the biggest boon for Chiles is that data from the panels can be used in science, social studies and math instruction.
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“FSEC will collect data from the solar panels and display it online for students to use in the classroom,” according to a news release. “Students will gain a basic understanding of how solar panels work, improve their skills in science and mathematics, and learn the importance of renewable energy and energy efficiency.”
Chiles, Tampa Palms Boulevard, is an emergency shelter space used for natural disasters. Having the solar panels will be able to power the facility when electricity fails.
“The solar panels are part of a $1.5 million investment Tampa Electric is making each year,” according to TECO’s release. “Tampa Electric installed a 10-kilowatt solar array at Centennial Middle School in Pasco County in 2011. In October, Tampa Electric made available $1 million in rebates available to assist customers with the installation of photovoltaic (PV) systems at their homes or businesses. Since 2011, Tampa Electric has offered over $3 million in rebates.”
Cutler can’t wait to start using the devices for instructional purposes.
“Everyone is excited about it,” she said.