Six Fairfield schools unveil solar power displays
FAIRFIELD — As students shuffle through the halls or mill around the cafeteria of some of Fairfield’s public schools, they can now look to the wall for a monitor tracking how much energy the schools’ rooftop solar panels are creating over time.
The number of trees saved by the solar power generated and cups of coffee the power could brew are among other statistics on view.
The displays are a small bonus from the solar panel installations completed on six schools this summer. The main purpose of the panels is to save the town and school district in electricity costs while benefiting the environment. But the monitors make up-to-the-minute data on the solar power generation publicly available in schools’ halls, to add a benefit of making rooftop additions into educational tools.
“It shows kids that you’re going to be able to be good to the environment while still using electricity,” said Sal Morabito, district Manager of Construction, Security and Safety.
Fairfield Ludlowe High School unveiled its monitor in the cafeteria last week, and Fairfield Warde High School’s recently went up outside its cafeteria in a busy area close to the senior commons. Fairfield Woods Middle School and Timothy Dwight, Mill Hill and Riverfield elementary schools have monitor displays up outside the schools’ cafeterias.
Teachers also have a link to an online version of information shown on the monitor displays, so they can scroll through data and pick what they need for the classroom.
Jake DeSantis, a physics teacher at Ludlowe, plans to use the rooftop panels as a real-world example for students. The proximity of the panels makes the example more relevant as a learning tool, according to DeSantis.
As an example of solar power generation, the installation is “hyperlocal, tangible,” he said. “It’s right up there above us now.”
DeSantis is planning to use the solar panels as part of a discussion on the science, engineering and technology in the design and use of the system. Using the data displayed on the cafeteria monitor, the information can help illustrate the seasonality and daily cycle of power generation, and the impact of environmental forces such as cloud cover, he added.
DeSantis also plans to discuss the difficulty of matching the nature-determined solar energy supply to demand, dictated by human behavior.
He may also use the installation to teach the economics of solar panel projects and, in some of his more advanced classes, talk about the wiring and design of the panels when teaching electric circuits.
“The stuff you see up on the whiteboard actually has ramifications,” DeSantis said. He believes the close proximity of a teaching example like the solar installation helps make that connection.