Stu­dents at tech cen­ter open ‘Green Shack’ to ex­plore so­lar en­ergy

The Progress-Index Weekend - - CHESTERFIELD - Michael Buet­tner Staff Writer —Michael Buet­tner may be reached at mbuet­tner@ progress-in­dex.com or 804-722-5155.

CH­ESTER­FIELD – They might not have to wear shades just yet, but the fu­ture has got­ten brighter for stu­dents in the elec­tric­ity pro­gram at the Ch­ester­field Tech­ni­cal Cen­ter’s Court­house Road cam­pus.

The school re­cently held a rib­bon-cut­ting for its “Green Shack,” a for­mer cafe­te­ria that stu­dents re­mod­eled and fit­ted up with so­lar pan­els as a learn­ing lab­o­ra­tory for al­ter­na­tive en­ergy sources. Do­min­ion Vir­ginia power funded the project, which the com­pany said is “a one-of-akind pro­gram where stu­dents [built] a com­plete so­lar con­fig­u­ra­tion, piece by piece.”

The project is “an op­por­tu­nity for stu­dents to re­ally get on the cut­ting edge,” said John M. Er­bach, School Board rep­re­sen­ta­tive for the Dale District, speak­ing at the rib­bon-cut­ting.

School Su­per­in­ten­dent James F. Lane told the stu­dents he was “just amazed at what you are do­ing ev­ery day” and told the teach­ers that the school di­vi­sion would “con­tinue to en­cour­age you to think out­side the box.”

The big ben­e­fit of the Green Shack is the help it will give stu­dents in pre­par­ing for jobs in the elec­tric­ity in­dus­try, said Colleen Bryant, prin­ci­pal of the tech cen­ter. “We are pre­par­ing our stu­dents for im­me­di­ate de­ploy­ment” to ca­reers in the in­dus­try she said. “These stu­dents will go to work as soon as school lets out.”

The re­fur­bish­ing of the for­mer cafe­te­ria in­volved stu­dents in the tech cen­ter’s car­pen­try, plumb­ing, land­scap­ing and graph­ics pro­grams in ad­di­tion to elec­tric­ity stu­dents. Ac­cord­ing to Do­min­ion, it’s “the only learn­ing lab of its kind in Vir­ginia – the only so­lar in­stal­la­tion built from scratch en­tirely by stu­dents.”

In ad­di­tion to the ex­pe­ri­ence they gained in set­ting up the shack, stu­dents will be able to use it to mea­sure how var­i­ous de­vices and ap­pli­ances im­pact the elec­tric load in the fa­cil­ity.

Al­ter­na­tive or re­new­able en­ergy in re­cent years has be­come the fastest-grow­ing seg­ment of the U.S. en­ergy mar­ket. In 2016, ac­cord­ing to the U.S. En­ergy In­for­ma­tion Ad­min­is­tra­tion, to­tal U.S. en­ergy pro­duc­tion fell 4 per­cent com­pared with 2016, led by de­clines in coal (down 18 per­cent), petroleum (down 5 per­cent) and nat­u­ral gas (down 2 per­cent).

But al­ter­na­tive en­ergy pro­duc­tion in­creased 7 per­cent, with wind en­ergy mak­ing up about half the in­crease and so­lar en­ergy about a fourth.

[MICHAEL BUET­TNER PHO­TOS/PROGRESS-IN­DEX.COM]

Holly-Faye Jenk­ins, tech­ni­cal com­mu­ni­ca­tions in­struc­tor at the Ch­ester­field Tech­ni­cal Cen­ter @ Court­house, pre­pares to cut the rib­bon on the school’s “Green Shack” as Su­per­in­ten­dent James F. Lane (from left), School Board mem­ber John M. Er­bach and stu­dent Ja­son Matz watch on May 4, 2017.

Michael Har­vey (from left), elec­tri­cal in­struc­tor at the Ch­ester­field Tech­ni­cal Cen­ter @ Court­house, ex­plains the school’s new “Green Shack” and its use of so­lar en­ergy to Su­per­in­ten­dent James F. Lane and Dale District School Board rep­re­sen­ta­tive John M. Er­bach on May 4, 2017.

So­lar pan­els on the roof power the lights in­side the new “Green Shack” at the Ch­ester­field Tech­ni­cal Cen­ter @ Court­house in a May 4, 2017, photo.

A mock-up at the Ch­ester­field Tech­ni­cal Cen­ter @ Court­house shows how so­lar en­ergy pan­els can con­trib­ute to com­mu­nity en­ergy needs.

A do­na­tion from Do­min­ion Vir­ginia Power helped pay for the new “Green Shack” at the Ch­ester­field Tech­ni­cal Cen­ter @ Court­house.

Ch­ester­field School Su­per­in­ten­dent James F. Lane wel­comes guests to the of­fi­cial open­ing of the “Green Shack” at the Ch­ester­field Tech­ni­cal Cen­ter @ Court­house on May 4, 2017.

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