Solar panels installed at Eliot River Elementary

Solar panels installed at Eliot River Elementary

At Eliot River Elementary School in Cornwall, P.E.I., staff and students have taken a hands-on approach to learning about renewable energy — this week the school had six solar panels installed on its roof.

The school hopes the panels will offer a way for students to learn first-hand about electricity and environmental sustainability.

"There are some science components within all grade levels that would take this, that would cover some aspect of it, be it electricity, or be it habitat," said teacher Darren Ford.

The school paid for the panels with money it received when it won an environmental challenge last year.

Last spring, Eliot River tied with O'Leary Elementary school in the Plastic Bag Grab Challenge, which challenges students to collect as many plastic bags as possible, which are then sent off to be recycled.

Eliot River and O'Leary Elementary each received $3,000 to go toward an environmental project. Eliot River also received $2,500 from the Cornwall Watershed Group to help pay for the panels.

Educational impact

M.B. Eye Electrical, which installed the panels, said the actual contribution to the school's total energy use will be small.

"They could power you know perhaps a classroom or two with lights, LED lighting and things like that, for the day. Small consumption in the school, computers and things like that," said Company owner Matt Eye.

But Eye thinks the panels will be a good educational tool for student, he said, along with software he's developed to track the energy converted by the solar panels.

On a screen in the school lobby, students will be able to see how much energy the panels have produced, and how many trees are being saved by the energy offset.

Ford said the learning opportunity for students is what's most important. 

"We probably won't get back too much off the grid, but from an educational standpoint, I think it will be a large impact," said Ford.

'It's pretty cool'

Some students are already interested in the project.

"It's pretty cool that we're using the sun's energy to power some of the lights in our school," said Grade 5 student Selena Coffin, a member of the school's environmental club. 

Coffin is is excited to learn "exactly how they can take the sun's energy and convert it into energy," adding she hopes projects like this encourage more kids to think about the environment.

"Because if nobody did anything, in like a few hundred years the earth would be way worse than it is now with all the pollution. And there'd probably be way more global warming," said Coffin. "So it would be pretty bad if nobody did anything."

Sunny ways

Ford hopes the school will win the Plastic Grab Bag Challenge again this year, and be able to install six more solar panels by this time next year.

Students have already started collecting plastic bags and strategizing for this year's competition, which happens in May.

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