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Newburgh Free Academy Main Scholars Learn about Efficient Energy
Scholars in Mrs. Barbara Laird’s Advanced Placement (AP) Environmental Science course learned about efficient energy use from a local company and took a tour to view solar panel installation in real time on the roof of their high school.
Mr. Peter Chaitkin, from Sunrun, visited Mrs. Laird's AP Environmental Science class Tuesday, January 28th to discuss solar energy as a truly viable renewable energy source and future economic opportunity. Mr. Chaitkin has worked with solar energy companies in California, Germany, and now with Sunrun here in New York.
He shared the history of solar power and the science behind photovoltaic cells and the system that gathers energy from the sun and converts it through the inverter into alternating current to be used by our homes (solar panels are the only electricity-producing technology without moving parts!). One could even charge your electric vehicle with your solar panels using a special inverter.
Mr. Chaitkin also helped students understand where solar panels should be placed for maximum efficiency, keeping in mind location of the home, time of the year, and angle of the panel. If a home cannot take rooftop panels, there are ground-mounted solar panels or solar farms that some homeowners and businesses buy into. He explained how Central Hudson, here in our area, uses a net meter for solar homes that runs in two directions to keep track of the energy the solar panels create and the energy needed by Central Hudson in the darker winter months. The students learned that a newer addition in our area to PV solar systems are lithium-ion batteries that can store the extra energy created during the day to be used at night or when one might lose power. Students were pleased to hear that in California, during the wildfires when the power utilities had to shut down for safety, that homes with batteries for their solar system still had power!
Mr. Chaitkin also discussed the amazingly promising future of solar energy and encouraged the students to think about getting involved in any aspect of solar or renewable energy - design, installation, economics, engineering or legislation. The students learned about new developments in solar design -solar roofing tiles, PV glazing on windows, backpacks and clothing that can charge devices with solar cells, flexible solar panels and incorporating solar panels in art and architecture. Mr. Chaitkin impressed students with the task of figuring out how we can transition from fossil fuels to renewable energies. He asked them to think, "How do we get from here to there?" and "How can I participate in that transformation?"
After Mr. Chaitkin’s presentation, the students took a quick trip up to the roof of Newburgh Free Academy to see the installation of solar panels in real time. Mr. Roger Ramjug, Director of Management Efficiency/ Capital Projects Administrator discussed the Energy Performance Contract (EPC) that the district started implementing in the summer of 2019. Mr. Ramjug discussed the various efficiencies that were being updated throughout the district (solar panels, LED lighting, insulation, water faucets, boilers, film for windows, etc.). In addition to efficiency and environmental factors, which include a 60% reduction in greenhouse gases, Mr. Ramjug also shared the cost savings that these updates will provide to the district. The EPC is estimated to bring $1.3 million annual savings for the district, which a 60% reduction of energy costs. You can learn more about the Energy Performance Contract (EPC) at www.newburghschools.org/energy
After the presentation and tour of the roof, students had a lot to say!:
"Hearing adults talk about climate change and acknowledging that it's a thing and taking steps to try and stop [it] creates a good feeling." - Juliana Salazar
"It was a reassuring experience traveling to the roof because I did not think the school had invested in this idea to the extent that they had. There were more solar panels than I thought they would be." - Alexandra Tapia
"A lot of the things discussed were interesting. Getting to understand how solar panels work and how efficient they really are was interesting. I think seeing the solar panels on the roof was pretty cool. It's a smart decision when the electric bill is so high." Julaina Salazar
"When Mr. Chaitkin was explaining that across 140 [square] miles in Arizona or less than 1% of Arizona's land ...[would be enough area of photovoltaic cells] to generate all the electricity for the US. Also, it shocked me that the school bill every month for electricity was $21,000." Lizzie Lopez
" I thought it was cool how some people in California still had power when the electricity was turned off [during the wildfires] because they had been collecting all their electricity from the sun that they hadn't used [in solar batteries]." Melissa Ortiz
"I liked Peter's presentation. He really went in-depth about solar panels and helped us understand the meaning behind them and how they conduct electricity and help us save money." - Raia Wolfson
Sofia Perna, an Italian exchange student commented, "I felt privileged to be able to go on the roof to look at the panels because at my school back home we would never be able to do that."
"The presentation was interesting and it was nice to go into detail about the science behind solar energy." - Grace Williams
ATTENTION: Are your scholars or colleagues doing something great? Please contact the district Communications Team at firstname.lastname@example.org. We’d love to visit your class or event and/or post your pictures and recap to highlight the amazing accomplishments throughout our district!