Solar project to help power 2 PISD schools
More than 800 solar panels, paid for with part of a $6 million court settlement, will soon be on the roofs of Sam Rayburn and South Houston high schools.
The two schools are sites for the East Harris County Solar Energy Pilot Program, a joint project of the Pasadena school district and Woodlands-based Houston Advanced Research Center.
The project is the result of a negotiated settlement between Shell Oil Co. and two nonprofit environmental groups over accidental emissions from Shell's Deer Park refinery that violated the Clean Air Act.
As part of the April 2009 settlement with Environment Texas and the Sierra Club, Shell agreed to reduce emissions known as upsets" from the Deer Park plant by 80 percent over three years.
The company also agreed to fund two school-related projects in east Harris County.
Sam Rayburn, 2121 Cherrybrook Lane in Pasadena, and South Houston, 3820 South Shaver in South Houston, filled the bill, said Grace Blasingame, Rayburn's new campus content specialist for science.
Also a physics and engineering design teacher, Blasingame has done smaller solar projects with students.
The new solar study is being funded with about $2 million of the Shell settlement money, said Luke Metzger, executive director of Environment Texas.
We're very pleased with the settlement," Metzger said Tuesday from Austin. It has the potential to create a buzz and get the public excited about ... clean energy."
Late this month, workers from Ignite Solar in Houston will begin installing three different types of solar panels on the high school roofs.
Installation and hook-up to the schools' existing electrical service is expected to be complete in September, said Glenn Guy, vice president of construction at American Electric Technologies Inc.
The Houston-based company is designing, building and testing a system to distribute the solar power.
There will be two types of rectangular panels, one installed flat on the roof and one at a 30-degree angle. Also, Guy said, there will be 3-by-5-foot rectangular racks filled with cylindrical tubes parallel to the roof and about 6 inches above it, to catch the sun from 360 degrees.
Each type is going to be monitored separately so students can see their advantages and disadvantages," Blasingame said.
American Electric will also create and build a kiosk for each school's front foyer, where students and others can monitor the panels' performance through a Web-based program.
Once the panels are functioning, the systems are expected to save the school district about $15,000 a year, Guy said.
The solar boost will fall far short of meeting the entire power need at the two schools, which together have an average monthly electricity bill of about $102,000, district officials said.
But it will lower the district's energy bill and will provide learning opportunities for thousands of students and residents, Blasingame said.
The 145-kilowatt system would provide enough power for several small homes, making it the state's largest solar installation at a public school, she said.
I've talked to everyone I know of in the solar industry and this is by far the largest (school) solar installation in Texas," she said.
Because Houston is considered a low-light city due to water vapor and pollution particles in the air, this project will use solar products that work better in areas with low sunlight, she said.
The main goal is educational, to show students, staff and community that solar is a viable option in our area," Blasingame said.
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