Middleton High School Goes Solar (partly)

04/25/07 Brandon Martin
WMNF Drive-Time News Thursday

Middleton High School Goes Solar (partly)

Yesterday at Middleton High School members of Hillsborough County Public Schools, TECO, and the Florida Solar Energy Center held a dedication ceremony for the largest solar panel array at any educational institution in Florida, and maybe even the United States. Brandon Martin reports.

 

It's not hard to marvel at this new and gleaming manifestation of science and technology. Middleton, which is the magnet high school for math, science, engineering, and technology, seems like an appropriate location for this solar cell, or photovoltaic, system.

James Gatlin, principal of Middleton High School, was master of ceremonies. He said how the solar cells come at an appropriate time.

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Gatlin said that a project like this is avant-garde. He believes that the installation of the solar panels gives the school an edge in educating the students

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but this endeavor will have a larger impact and more educational importance.

Vandalism of the solar cells would seem like an issue here, but Gatlin said that Middleton actually experiences a low level of valdalism. And for the four months that the solar array has been on the school grounds, it is apparently still intact and unharmed.

Superintendant Mary Ellen Elia spoke about the school's status as a special needs emergency shelter.

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She said that installing the photovoltaic system there creates the foundation for activities that will be needed in the future.

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Chuck Black, President of Tampa Electric, spoke about the role of solar energy in future energy supply.

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He continued in the vein of environmentally helpful measures.

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Later on, WMNF asked him about TECO's uses of solar energy.

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To note, a sign on the fence surrounding the solar array says that the solar cells create a source of renewable energy and are contributing to our independence from foreign oil.

The Florida Solar Energy Center, or F-SEC, participated in this collaboration as technical advisors and consultants. They also administer the SunSmart Schools program, which advocates solar energy usage by schools. Bob Reedy, director of the photovoltaics division at F-SEC, said that students, walking by the solar array, will begin to see solar as the normal source of energy, especially in Florida.

For those of you not familiar with the trailblazing technology of these solar panels, here's John Nettles, master electrician of Solar Source, the company that installed the panels.

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Usually, the photovoltaic system supplies power to a computer bank in the school as well as the shelter area of the school.

Nettles also spoke about some challenges in installing the largest solar panel array with a backup battery in Florida.

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A group of Middleton seniors in the Computer Information Technology portion of the Magnet program are working with TECO and the FSEC in monitoring data from the solar cell. They gave their thoughts about how Middleton students feel about it.

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As special as this solar panel array is, it's not the first one in the school district. There is another one in use at Walker Middle School, which also serves as a hurricane shelter.

For WMNF, this is Brandon Martin.

 

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