Solar panels brighten up Unity Christian School – Herald & Review

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DECATUR — The students at Unity Christian School have a living classroom between the baseball and football fields.

Students and staff of Unity Christian School unveiled their solar panel project to the community Tuesday afternoon, the day after Earth Day. Situated on the school campus between two athletic fields, the state-of-the-art solar array is a “reminder of the power of solar energy and its benefits to our community,” the school stated in a news release.

A heavy rain kept the students and staff inside the gymnasium for a ribbon cutting ceremony. However, a group of sixth-graders were able to tour the project months ago while it was still in the construction phase.

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“The sun shines on the solar panel and energy from the sunlight is absorbed,” said student Mira Tanta. “And this energy creates electrical charges that move in response to an internal electrical field in the cell, causing electricity to flow.”

The students have had an interest in the solar array before it was placed on the 54 acre Unity Christian School campus. “I used to be obsessed with saving the planet,” said Clementine Houston before the ribbon cutting ceremony.

The students had their own questions as the solar panels were being installed.

“I was wondering what would happen if somebody was at the baseball field,” Brynna Conley said about a potential home run hit.

The school’s executive, Brian Booth, had an answer. “It shouldn’t be too close to the baseball field,” he said. “They set it back enough, unless someone just hit an amazing, powerful homerun, it shouldn’t break one of them.”

CQI Associates developed the project. StraightUp Solar installed the panels. Standard Solar owns and operates the solar module.

The 2,028 panels covering three acres generate 912 kilowatts of energy. The array will produce 98% of the power for the school. It was constructed so it doesn’t cause any problems with the sports facilities or school’s activities.

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The children will be able to study the solar array throughout the year. “Since the project’s been installed, they have been monitoring all of the output and what the array is producing,” said Mary Joynt, Standard Solar public relations. “They are very involved.”

Representing StraightUp Solar for the project, Shannon Fulton said the company has installed solar panels in other areas of Central Illinois. “But this is a good-sized project,” she said. “It’s not an uncommon size project especially for a small school district. This will make a big dent in their energy bills.”

The solar panels are an ideal opportunity to educate the community as well as the students in clean energy, the companies said. “They’re putting assets into the community that actually benefit the kids’ future and the community’s future,” Fulton said.

The sixth graders said they were excited about the possibilities the solar array will do for their school as well.

“It’s a nice renewable energy source,” Clementine said. “More schools should change to it.”

“This is so much better than all the other ways to make energy,” Mira said.

“And it’s better for our bills,” added Brynna.

Contact Donnette Beckett at (217) 421-6983. Follow her on Twitter: @donnettebHR

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