Funded by the Green Power Program participants, Solar 4R Schools is an educational program designed to teach students about renewable energy. The program is open to k-12 schools in Idaho Power’s service area. Participating schools receive a small solar array that helps offset the energy use at the school, as well as a STEM based curriculum, classroom kit and teacher training. The goal is to help students understand how electricity is produced, learn about the science of solar and explore careers in energy.
Schools may apply for a Solar 4R Schools project anytime. However, applications are reviewed each October and March. Idaho Power awards up to 2 projects each year. Successful schools receive:
- A small solar array (between 5 and 10 kW)
- STEM based lesson plans and activities
- A classroom science kit with equipment and materials to conduct hands-on projects
- In person or virtual teacher training
Successful projects have a teacher or school champion that will oversee the project, help recruit teachers for the training and ensure the project goals are met. The champion should have strong goals on how they will use the array to further STEM education. Schools can create their own goals for the project. Examples include:
- Integrate solar energy lessons into class curriculum. From lessons on the types of energy for a science class, using the solar production data for a math class, or even the economics of energy for a government or economics class, there are many ways to incorporate the provided curriculum into a variety of subjects.
- Hold a renewable energy science fair. Classroom kits allow students to build their own wind turbines or solar cars or learn how to build a solar oven.
- A community component including ways to share the project with parents, the neighborhood or community.
A solar installer with the licensing to do work in the state will install the array. The installer will ensure the use of all required state and local permits and will provide these permits to the school upon completion of the installation. Equipment will have the appropriate industry listings (UL and IEEE).
The school will assume ownership of the solar array and be responsible for maintenance. The solar installer will provide instructions for operation and maintenance. In general, solar PV systems require very little maintenance as there are no moving parts. However, the school should be prepared to:
- Monitor the system’s output through the data monitoring or Idaho Power’s MyAccount portal. Should an issue be discovered, a solar installer or the equipment manufacturer can help troubleshoot.
- The system will come with a web-based portal to view production data. Passwords will need to be set and kept up to date.
- Solar PV systems can last 25 years or more. Most equipment will come with warranties. Solar panels typically come with a 25-year warranty. Inverters have a 10 to 25-year warranty, depending on type. The school should plan for inverter replacements at about 10 years, after the warranty expires. Inverters typically cost a few thousand dollars.
Systems may be roof mounted, awning style or ground mounted. The contractor will work with your school to determine the best option for your site. Installations will follow current building and electric codes. Roof mounted systems do require holes drilled into the roof, however the holes are covered by a moisture resistant material and sealed to prevent any issues.
Idaho Power contracts with the Clean Energy, Bright Futures program hosted by the Bonneville Environmental Foundation to offer a one-day training for the school. All teachers and staff are welcome to attend. The STEM based training aligns with state standards. The training is tailored to the grade level of the school. Topics include electricity basics, renewable energy sources, how to teach lessons in the provided curriculum and classroom experiments using the classroom kit. The training will also explore careers in energy. We will work with the school to determine a date and time for the training. Trainings can be conducted in person or over several virtual sessions.