The school year has drawn to a close we have our first combined efficiency and solar energy program under our belts. The program was launched this year with incredibly generous support from Hamilton Solar at two high schools in northern Nevada. With approximately 110 students in four Environmental Science classes at Reed High School and 130 students in five Environmental Science classes at North Valleys High School our programming was able to reach an incredibly wide audience. We’ve been getting great feedback from the teachers and administrators involved, and we have gained a wealth of knowledge and experience essential to the expansion and future implementation of our energy efficiency and solar energy curriculum throughout Nevada.
In part one of the program, students explored the fundamentals of electrical efficiency by doing hands-on activities related to appliances, lighting, and cooling. They used Kill-A-Watt meters to investigate the energy consumption of common electronics, debated the economic and social effects of a ban on incandescent light bulbs, constructed small model houses to see if they could keep them cool without the heavy energy burden of air conditioning, and generally had too much fun with infrared thermometer guns. To emphasize the value of a watt we brought in our bicycle-powered generator, the Energy Bike, and had students pedaling to power different light bulbs. The students loved watching their peers struggle to keep the 40 watt incandescent bulbs lit!
For each of these lessons students were asked to apply this newly acquired knowledge to their own lives, evaluating their own homes for opportunities to make energy efficiency improvements. Leigh Metcalf, Environmental Science teacher from Reed, shared this student quote with us: “After I did the light bulb activity at home, I made my mom change all our light bulbs to CFL bulbs. She was shocked at how much money we spend to light the house!” Other students told us they were especially excited to implement some of the passive cooling strategies they had learned about in their own homes, as they were without air conditioning with a long hot summer fast approaching. In any case, a dialogue about energy efficiency and clean energy alternatives clearly extended beyond the classroom.
In part two of the program the students were able to leverage what they had learned about electricity consumption to explore solar energy as a renewable alternative. At North Valleys the students transitioned to the subject of solar by retrofitting the efficient model houses they had built to take advantage of passive solar lighting and heating. At Reed, students began familiarizing themselves with solar photovoltaics (PV) by conducting experiments with PV cells on the effect of the angle of inclination, color of light, and temperature of the cell on its output performance. Most students came to this curriculum with a limited understanding of the science behind the solar installations their schools had recently received, and these activities helped demystify this growing energy resource.
Hamilton Solar and Reid Hamilton’s support has been invaluable to the success of our program and the continued expansion and evolution of our clean energy curriculum. We look forward to working with this great local company again in the near future!