Capital High School has a new solar panel array that is currently generating up to 10 kilowatts per hour of green energy. You won’t see them, however, without climbing a ladder. That’s because they were installed 40 feet above the ground on the roof of Capital’s gym. The system has only been operational for a total of 60 days but has already produced 1.7 megawatts of electricity.
The project started as the brainchild of Capital High School science teachers Tom Pedersen and Logan Mannix and the high school’s Green Club. The group worked with Jackson Isbell of Solar Montana to design a photo-voltaic (solar) system in the spring of 2012. Working with John Carter, Director of Support Services for the Helena School District, they sent a proposal to Northwestern Energy to receive a USB grant. In the spring of 2015, a grant in the amount of $40,000 was awarded to install a 10 KW solar array.
“Bottom line is we will save the district thousands of dollars over the years,” says Tom Pedersen. “ It will pay for itself and demonstrate to students that we are not just talking about green energy, but we are walking the walk and making a real application of green energy that makes a difference. The school can also take pride in the fact that we are reducing our carbon foot print on the planet.”
Tom Pedersen credits the district’s Director of Support Services, John Carter, with the idea to place the panels on the roof. “We were trying to pick a location where the panels would be out of the way and not take up too much space. John suggested we mount them on the roof of the gym and proceeded to help us with everything from designing the system, writing the grant and working with the vendors. ” Solar Montana’s Jack Isbell said, “We really enjoyed collaborating with the district on this project.”
Live data from the solar panels is available to the public. The system is equipped with a weather station for students and the public to access in real time. Bill Kaiser, Technology Teacher/Coordinator for the district, built the public access page and will be developing a kiosk in the main lobby of Capital High School to demonstrate the CHS solar statistics.