By Thibault Worth
This summer, you may have noticed a strange new object on the George Watts school playground: a pole-mounted array of solar panels. Visible from both Dacian Ave. and Urban Ave., the array will produce solar energy for the school and will help students learn about renewable energy from an early age.
I’m a George Watts parent, and I think about climate change probably more than is healthy. It’s the issue that, more than any other, worries me about our collective future. In 2020, I learned about NC Greenpower, a Raleigh-based non-profit that provides grants for solar educational projects at K-12 schools. With help from school administrators and several other parents, I submitted an application on behalf of George Watts to receive a 5 kW solar array. Unfortunately, we weren’t selected that year. But I renewed our application the following year.
George Watts was ultimately selected in 2021 as one of 15 schools around the state to receive a solar array. As part of the deal, we had to raise $12,000 to help defray the cost. Fundraising was a daunting challenge, especially since, due to the pandemic, parents were not allowed into the school building that year and we were all less engaged, both with the school and with each other. Nevertheless, dozens of parents stepped up, and donations trickled in steadily. We met our fundraising goal and proceeded with the installation in the spring of 2022.
The panels include a weather monitoring station and a data link that transmits solar energy production data into the school. The grant also covers an annual training to give teachers ideas on how to engage students on the subject of renewable energy in age-appropriate ways.
I was heartened to be a part of this collective effort during a very challenging time. Though it will take much more work to slow climate change, the installation of this solar array is a small step in the right direction that gives me hope for my daughters’ futures.
Feel free to visit the playground, outside of school hours, and take a closer look at this new addition.