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About Our Solar Panels
- The group was formed by eighth-grade students at Rachel Carson Middle School in the 2008-09 school year, and has been continued by the Going Green Club. FREE stands for Future Renewable Energy Effort. Our school raised money to purchase an array of eleven photovoltaic solar panels, which are now in working on our school's roof. We did this to offset the burning of fossils fuels, and also to teach other students how effective this method of energy generation is. This is an effort conducted by the students of 08-09 and the Going Green Club, with the advice and support of our librarian, Mr. Treakle.
- So far, we have done several things to promote our group. One such thing was the Showcase Night at Rachel Carson Middle School on April 2, 2009. During that night, families of the students who are enrolled at the school were invited to come and see different presentations from groups of students. One of those groups was ours. We were able to talk to hundreds of parents, students, and community members about our project. It was a great way to get the word out.
- We applied for numerous grants and participated in several contests, and raised enough money to install an eleven-panel array, which began contributing electricity to our school on December 27th, 2010. We are currently trying to raise more money to enlarge our system.
- Our array is comprised of eleven 235 watt photovoltaic panels, for a total system size of 2.6 kilowatts.
- The system produces hundreds of kilowatt hours every month, which is enough to power a small house.
- More than 600 lbs of Carbon Dioxide is saved per month, which is the equivalent of the burning of over 60 gallons of gas.
- All aspects of the project were paid for by grants and donations. No funding comes from Fairfax County Public Schools.
- The solar energy saves our school hundreds of dollars in energy bills every year.
- A solar panel array can last for 30 years or more.
Future Plans and Goals
- We are working to raise money to fund the Carson Future Renewable Energy Effort or Carson FREE for short. By applying for grants and talking to companies, we are hoping to obtain tens of thousands of dollars to continue our project. Eventually, we plan to have a larger on-grid photovoltaic system on Rachel Carson Middle School’s roof, and we are also looking into a wind energy program for our school. This is also a learning opportunity for the Rachel Carson student body, and we hope to not only use solar panels to power our school but also to have other forms of renewable energy, such as wind turbines and geothermal. The panels supply a percentage of our school’s electrical needs, and in later years could be expanded to provide even more. We are already working on grants and other organized forms of fundraising to assist with the funding.
- Our goals are to raise money through grants and fundraisers to power as much of our school as possible through renewable resources such as solar energy. We have achieved our first goal of raising enough money to purchase a system of eleven solar panels, which were installed over Winter Break 2010-2011. Even though we already have a small array of eleven panels, we are looking to raise more money to install a larger system and/or including other types of alternative energy, such as wind turbines, in our project to help reduce our effect on the environment. We also want to spread awareness about solar energy in order to make it possible for other places to stop using fossil fuels and to switch to clean alternatives, like photovoltaic cells or wind turbines.