When students in several Maryland public schools returned to their classrooms this fall, they found that part of the electricity they’re using now comes directly from the sun.Poolesville, Maryland – October 16, 2002 [SolarAccess.com] Poolesville High School, Poolesville Middle School and the Lathrop E. Smith Environmental Education Center are each now proud owners of state-of-the-art solar photovoltaic (PV) systems. Financial support for the projects was provided by Mirant, an independent power producer and energy marketing and risk management company headquartered in Atlanta. The three systems were designed and installed by Solar Works, Inc, a Renewable Energy firm, located in Annapolis, Maryland. With its headquarters in Montpelier, Vermont, Solar Works, Inc. runs the nation’s largest ‘Solar on Schools’ Program that highlights the educational, economic and environmental benefits that solar electric photovoltaic (PV) technologies can provide to schools and their surrounding communities. “The goal of installing these PV systems is to provide teachers and students with a hands-on opportunity to explore the energy, environmental and economic benefits of Renewable Energy. Our hope is that as the students learn about Renewable Energy, they will then inform the broader community,” said Isaac Opalinsky, the Maryland Sales Manager for Solar Works. The three systems vary in size, ranging from 800 W at the Middle School, 1,200 W at the High School and 2,400 W at the Smith Center. Each system uses solid state, silicon-based photovoltaic (PV) modules manufactured by AstroPower. An inverter converts the incoming DC current to AC current so that it can be used in the classroom. And a data monitoring system tracks the daily and cumulative electrical output from the PV array. Linked to a computer, and the school’s Web site, the monitor will be used by students in hands-on activities to track the performance of the systems and calculate the positive environmental impact of solar energy. Accompanying the PV systems are a series of age-appropriate educational resource materials, including lesson plans, CDs, demonstration solar panels, magazines and hands-on exercises, that will enable teachers to present relevant and up-to-date information about their school’s PV system. Teachers from a range of disciplines, including earth sciences, chemistry, physics, pre-engineering and social studies, will be able to use the solar array as an instructional aid. While each of these systems provides only a modest contribution to the school’s overall electrical needs, each provides between 20 percent and 50 percent of a typical Maryland residence’s electrical needs. Together, the three systems will produce about 6,600 kW of clean electricity a year, equal to about US$660 worth of electricity. Maryland state law enables PV owners (residential as well as commercial) to “net-meter” their electricity, an arrangement that allows them to sell excess power back to the utility at the full retail price. “Mirant is excited to provide solar panels to several schools in our community through the Solar on Schools program. This program is an excellent means of demonstrating our commitment to environmental stewardship and environmental education,” said Wesley McNealy, Director of Environmental Affairs, Mirant Mid-Atlantic, LLC.