COLUMBIA — On Monday, the Columbia Area Career Center was catapulted into the field of alternative energy. Installation of 12 solar panels given by Columbia’s Water and Light Department began. The two-kilowatt solar panel system will generate electricity for the building, but more importantly, it will serve as an educational example of how solar energy works for Career Center students.
“These solar panels will provide a fraction of the energy we use in this building, but we didn’t acquire them for that purpose,” said Steve Chott, an instructor and department chair for the pre-engineering students at the Career Center. Chott said the solar panel system will be used to teach students about alternative energy and how solar systems work.
“Alternative energy is something these kids are definitely going to have to deal with in their lifetime,” Chott said.
When asked why the Columbia Water and Light Department gave these solar panels to the Career Center instead of one of the high schools, Jay Hasheider, energy services supervisor for the department said, “The Career Center has a technical mission, and we thought this fits into what they’re doing.”
The solar panel system will also have a real-time monitor that will be accessible online so students can see how much power is being generated on a minute-by-minute basis. Chott says that he has several students who are interested in learning more about alternative energy, but there are also a lot of kids who just don’t care. In their defense Chott says, “They are teenagers — we’ve all been there.”
The solar panels are expected to become a part of the Career Center’s curriculum by the beginning of the 2008 school year.