Small town solar: Lindenwood’s Eswood Elementary goes solar

StoryImage( ‘/Images/Story//Auto-img-110675557612821.jpg’, ‘Photo by Sonia Vogl’, ‘Photovoltaic collectors on the roof of Eswood School.’);
StoryImage( ‘/Images/Story//Auto-img-110675561512820.jpg’, ‘Photo by Sonia Vogl’, ‘Students of Eswood School and guests at their October 2003 Solar Celebration.’);
StoryImage( ‘/Images/Story//Auto-img-11067556888713.jpg’, ‘Photo by Sonia Vogl’, ‘Student Mindy Birdwell tracks voltage readings of Eswood School photovoltaic system.’);

The Eswood Elementary School in the small town of Lindenwood has one of the first school photovoltaic systems in north central Illinois. In June, 2003, a 4 kW system consisting of 16 Schott ASE 300 panels was installed on the school. It was partially funded by a grant from the Illinois Clean Energy Community Foundation (ICECF).

According to Dr. Dwight Mayberry, principal of the school and superintendent of the Eswood District, students and teachers have been positive toward the installation. The general reaction is, “It’s just there—it’s part of the school.” Community reaction has also been positive.

A switching problem prevented accurate monitoring until Dave Merrill (TRRT, March 26, 2003) corrected it. The entire system is up and running now, and monitoring will proceed.

Mayberry believes that Eswood students are fairly knowledgeable about solar energy. Some prepared solar projects for their annual science fair. One used a light bulb to simulate the sun shining on a solar panel to produce electricity. Another demonstrated how solar energy moves from solar panels through the circuits in a home.

As part of their teacher preparation program, Western Illinois University teachers in training are working with Eswood students to help them learn more about solar and wind power. Solar and wind-oriented science curriculum materials will be developed and taught at each grade level.

On Oct. 17, 2003, the school had a Solar Celebration with displays explaining how solar energy works. State Senator Brad Burzynski, representatives of the ICECF, ComEd and the Holcomb State Bank, School Board Chairman Dan Hyde and other guests helped the school celebrate their new installation. Yellow T-shirts with a solar logo purchased for the festivities were worn by all students. The school band played, classes sang, and the entire student body did a solar rap. Such a celebration can familiarize the community with solar power and establish its credibility. They can see the technology functioning and assess its performance, establishing that it is mature and capable of producing electricity in Illinois on a year-round basis.

The school is also interested in using wind power. Before the photovoltaic system was installed, they applied for a grant for a Bergey 10 kW wind generator. The County Board and Eswood School Board had already approved the project. But they have found that while grants are available for large systems, it’s difficult to get grants for a small system. The Eswood School is built on flat, open land stretching out to the western horizon. It should be an excellent site for a wind generator. The school is still hoping and trying.

The school installed solar “to make our community more aware of solar sources and solar energy.” Photovoltaics is a “clean source of energy; it reduces costs and saves money, too, that we can use for teacher supplies.”

Mayberry would definitely recommend that other schools have solar installations. Not only is it safe power, it helps us “take better care of our earth—we only have one.”

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