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