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Solar for sakai

In January 2009, we completed the Solar for Sakai project, a community-supported solar energy project at Sakai Intermediate School on Bainbridge Island. The 5.1 KW photovoltaic system will provide a hands-on learning experience about solar energy to the 5th and 6th grade students. With no moving parts, noise, or pollution, the solar energy system will convert sunshine into electricity for decades to come.

The Solar for Sakai Project is a community solar project. It was made possible by contributions from solar supporters in the community and a grant from Puget Sound Energy’s Solar for Schools Program. (See list of contributors)

With its physical proximity and the availability of on-line production information, students, teachers, and anyone interested to learn more about the viability of solar energy can retrieve live photovoltaic information from any place with internet access.

Sakai online production chart

Solar for Sakai Technical Information:

  • PV modules: 30 Schott 170 watt
  • Inverter: SMA Sunny Boy 5000US
  • Racking: Unirac tilt rack

Education Benefits

This project is more than just watts. The system reduces the school’s electric bills, and generates renewable energy production incentives, creating a resource that the school will reinvest to enhance education efforts and implement further energy saving measures.

Sakai teachers use the project to facilitate real-life learning across the curriculum, generating tremendous educational benefits. The online monitoring of the energy produced and carbon emissions avoided provide an opportunity for everyone else to learn more about local renewable energy.

In 2009 and beyond, teachers at the school have been implementing energy education lessons. Todd Erler, 5th grade teacher and Sakai Solar Energy Project Champion, had a Science Fair that focused on sustainable energy. As described by Todd: “We used the solar panel data, and some equipment bought for us by Puget Sound Energy to do inquiry-based projects about energy. The kids built and altered windmills to generate the most amount of energy. Some students investigated angle of light and amount of light as it affects solar energy output, some students used small solar panels to separate hydrogen from water to investigate the potential of hydrogen fuel.”

In Sakai’s 6th grade, science teacher Doug Olson has done a significant unit on energy, referencing the solar panels and solar energy. As described by Doug: “6th grade students explored how the angle of sun rays affect the efficiency of solar panels in class and then went outside to discuss the set angle of the solar panels outside on our roof. Why was the set angle chosen and what season would it be most efficient? Students also learned how we measure power in Watts and what a Kilowatt/hr is. Students went on to use solar panels to break down water into Hydrogen and Oxygen and then use these gases in a Hydrogen Fuel Cell Car to recombine the gases to make water and electricity that ran the cars down the hallway. In this way students could see how two different technologies can be used together to solve both transportation and energy production problems for the future.”

Todd also reported that they had a very successful school-wide “low power day” where computers remained off and many lights were turned off as well. Teachers used the experience to discuss energy issues and energy efficiency. And not least, some Sakai students took a leadership role in the 4th Annual Kitsap County Solar Tour held on October 3, 2009, and organized by Community Energy Solutions. Students described to tour visitors at the school the “photovoltaic effect” and the energy information displayed by the monitor at the school’s library.

With its physical proximity and the availability of on-site and on-line information, the Solar for Sakai Project will serve for many years to spur the interest in renewable energy for students. It has sent the message to students throughout Bainbridge Island that solar energy is an important upcoming primary energy source. It will encourage them to work towards incorporating more clean energy systems into their schools and throughout Bainbridge Island. We believe the effect this Project will have on the student’s learning, and their future decision-making as adults, can only be positive.

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Solar For Sakai Slide Show

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