Amy Vaughn is a fellow in the 2019 Leaders in Environment and Finance (LEAF) program. As part of the LEAF Fellowship, Amy worked with NC GreenPower over the summer of 2019. Amy is a senior at UNC majoring in Environmental Science and Economics with a minor in Information Science. She currently works at the EFC as a Research Assistant.
As the renewable energy sector continues to grow rapidly in North Carolina, it is important that the next generation understands how to use these resources and the data that energy creates. This is achieved most effectively with hands on learning experience at a young age. Unfortunately, it can be difficult for K-12 schools to adapt their curriculum and train teachers, let alone invest in educational materials like solar panels.
Recognizing this barrier, NC GreenPower introduced their Solar Schools program in an effort to support community solar photovoltaic (PV) projects and expand renewable energy education in North Carolina. This program is open to every K-12 school in North Carolina and provides matching grants from NC GreenPower and the potential for an additional grant from the State Employees Credit Union (SECU) Foundation for public schools. The remaining balance of the system, typically 30-40% of the total cost, is fundraised by the school and its broader community. Grant recipients receive up to a 5 kilowatt (kW) solar installation along with a weather station, real-time monitoring equipment, STEM curriculum and teacher training needed to implement renewable energy education into existing class curricula. Continue reading
83 percent of Puerto Ricans remain without power three weeks after Hurricane Maria hit the island. The goal is for 25 percent of customers to regain power by the end of October, but it could be months before the territory’s grid is fully operational again. Meanwhile, 36 percent of the island still does not have water service. Since energy is required to treat and deliver water, presumably the lack of power is standing in the way of getting some of those water systems back online. (Water, of course, is also needed to generate energy, but that’s a topic for another time.) Continue reading
On Monday, Aug. 21, a total eclipse will slice across the United States for the first time since 1918. It will take just 93 minutes for the eclipse to move across the entire country, and it will appear only briefly.
Since the last coast-to-coast eclipse nearly a century ago, solar generators have come to provide a small but growing piece of the nation’s energy needs, and the eclipse will at least partially obscure the sun for approximately 1,900 utility-scale plants. More than 21 GW of solar capacity will be impacted, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
While the impact is minor on a broad scale—utility-scale solar provides less than 1 percent of the United States’ electricity use—utilities in specific regions see the impact as large enough to develop contingency plans. Continue reading
As a society, we expect a lot from our schools. In addition to teaching basic skills, we hope our educational institutions will prepare students to be 21st century leaders. Part of preparing future leaders includes teaching students about environmental topics and helping them develop tools to understand and address environmental challenges.
One environmental topic that many schools are now trying to incorporate into their curricula is energy (in particular the role of energy efficiency and renewable energy), but these can be tough ideas to teach. Energy brings together complex concepts, from the science of electricity to broader questions of how our energy use impacts the environment. In the face of this challenge, schools have a unique opportunity to educate through real-world application of concepts and hands on projects. Schools are in a unique position to become public leaders in taking advantage of new improvements in technology and growing renewable energy markets. Schools have predictable electrical consumption, teachers who are able to take advantage of new educational tools, and generally have enough real estate to install new energy systems.
Last month on a sunny day in Raleigh, North Carolina, Governor Pat McCrory extended the state’s 35 percent renewable energy tax credit for one year, pushing the expiration for projects that meet certain criteria to December 31, 2016 instead of the impending December 31, 2015 deadline. As solar installers across the state breathed a small sigh of relief, many potential solar investors were left wondering, “What does this really mean to the cost of solar PV for me?” A few months ago, I was asking myself this very same question. Today, I have a beautiful residential solar PV installation on my roof. Here is my story.