Students work on energy savings solution for school

Duncan Schroeder

MOUNT JACKSON – A group of Massanutten Regional Governor’s School students in Mount Jackson spent the past school year researching the viability of installing solar panels outside the school, located at Triplett Tech, to create energy savings.

Susan Fream, governor’s school director, said all students are required to engage in a year-long research project.

“There is a great deal of flexibility regarding these projects to enable students to choose a topic in which they are interested,” she said. “Some do their research at our facility, but others are involved in research projects at James Madison University or have mentors who are professionals in the field they are studying.”

Massanutten Regional Governor’s School juniors Duncan Schroeder, of Quicksburg, William Lam, 17, of Woodstock,; Tyler Patton, 17, of Conicville and Ethan Reintz, of Woodstock, with help from Russell Kohrs, environmental science teacher at Massanutten Regional Governor’s School, and Ed Kelly, principal of Shenandoah Energy Services LLC, were involved in the solar panels project.

Duncan, 17,  said their goal is to install solar panels on the school’s front lawn, facing 28 degrees south.

Ethan Reintz

“We are looking to reduce the amount of money we are spending here at the school on energy, particularly lighting,” he said.

William, 17,  added that the total lighting accounts for about 21 to 22 percent of the total energy bill for the building. .

By installing solar panels, “we’d be cutting 20 percent out of the total energy bill, which would be around $10,000 each year,” he said. “But also, we’re not just trying to reduce the money. We’re also trying to set an example for other schools across Virginia by showing how you can go environmental with solar panels and other renewable energy sources.”

The group also sees this project as a way to not only cut costs and become more environmentally friendly but as a way to bring the students of the governor’s school and Triplett Tech together.

William said, “It can benefit both the environment and the students by offering an educational experience for both the governor’s school students, looking at the science behind solar panels and other renewable energy, but also for the electricity students, for example, and how they can be a part of the project and help set up the actual solar panels and learn how they produce energy for the school.”

Tyler Patton

Duncan added that lifestyle changes can also reduce energy costs, such as turning lights off when leaving the room, unplugging cords from outlets and opening blinds to let natural light into the classrooms.

William added that around 120 panels would be placed outside the school with a 30- to 40-kilowatt system.

The projected cost is between $90,000 and $120,000. To fund this endeavor, they are looking at various grants to apply to, including a Dominion Power grant that would provide around $40,000.

Kohrs added the school isn’t looking for public funding. They are pursing grants and private investors, who can take advantage of the 30 percent tax credit, as ways to fund the project. The group will create a funding proposal over the summer to present to the School Board.

He added that the long-term savings would be beneficial to the school and the school division as a whole.

William Lam

William said that the money saved by installing the panels could be used for purchasing educational tools and implementing more programming.

Tyler, 17, said this project taught him project management and how to stick to a schedule to get the project completed on time.

William said he learned how to cooperatively work in groups and how each member needs to be reliable to make this project a reality.

“We aren’t just working for us,” he said. “We are working for the entire county and all the kids that will come through the school system sooner or later.”

Ethan, 17, said he contributed a lot to the technical support aspect of the project — he wants to pursue a career in cyber security after graduation. He created the spreadsheets and helped with the formatting of the presentation presented at the last School Board meeting.

Contact staff writer Kaley Toy at 540-465-5137 ext. 176, or ktoy@nvdaily.com