Sunshine is not hard to come by in the Lowcountry -- a good thing for Hardeeville-Ridgeland Middle School.
The Jasper County school is now equipped with a solar panel, and on Monday was named a Green Power Solar School as part of a program supported by Santee Cooper and Palmetto Electric Cooperative.
The solar panel is one of 23 at schools around the state and was installed in November. It is already producing electricity for the school.
"This is an opportunity to really see solar energy in action and how it works to provide electricity for our school," principal Eric Jeffcoat said.
Santee Cooper works with electric cooperatives throughout South Carolina to install the 2-kilowatt solar-power systems. The Green Power Solar Schools program was launched in 2006 at Hilton Head Island Middle School.
Palmetto Electric paid the $3,600 start-up costs for the system and covers the costs to maintain the program and solar panel -- about $500 per school each year, according to Jimmy Baker, the cooperative's vice president of marketing and public relations. The schools benefit from any savings on their electricity bills.
The school also receives a computer to monitor the system and allow students to see how much electricity is being produced. At full capacity, the array could power a microwave, several televisions or the lights in one classroom, Palmetto Electric representative Tom Trout said.
The program includes a nine-week lab for sixth-graders. The middle school has two teachers trained in the curriculum and in using the solar panel, and other teachers can incorporate the solar panel into their lessons, Jeffcoat said.
"I think it is a great thing for the school," sixth-grader Andre Benjamin said. "I really like the fun and interactive activities we get to do, and it will help save some money for the school, too."
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