Solar panels offer lesson in determination for Carrboro middle schoolers

Posted February 6, 2015

— With the sun shining brightly outside McDougle Middle School in Carrboro, it’s a good day to learn about solar energy.

Science teacher Ruben Giral has a big teaching tool in the front yard - a four-panel solar array.

Science teacher Ruben Giral has a big teaching tool in the front yard - a four-panel solar array that gives students more than just a lesson in science. It has also taught them how to get things done.

“It started with a lesson in sustainability,” Giral said. “I was asking the kids, ‘Why don't we have something like this here in Carrboro?’”

The students decided to take action and wrote letters to the Carrboro Town Council. They also helped raise $8,000 through an Indiegogo campaign and a bake sale.

Eighth-grader Megan Zelasky was thrilled when the panels arrived in October.

“It was just the most incredible feeling,” she said. “I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, it's finally here in Carrboro.’”

The panels generate electricity that goes directly into the school. Zelasky hopes they also generate a sense of responsibility about the environment.

“We only get one planet, and I think we should work to make it a better place,” she said.

Giral couldn’t be more proud of his students.

“If we're going help this planet continue, we need more kids just like them,” he said. “And they're doing it, they're showing us you can do it.”

Three schools in Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools now have solar electricity, and six schools are using solar energy to heat water to use in the kitchen.


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  • rushbot Feb 7, 2015

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    i am pretty sure the solar panels do not require power to operate..

  • Rob Creekmore Feb 7, 2015
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    Is this really that controversial? Go argue on a political post.

  • John Kramer Feb 7, 2015
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    This is Carrboro we are talking about. There is no consideration of cost. It just feels good,

  • shallottemustang Feb 7, 2015

    There is the text book world and there is the real world. I fear too many teachers like this with good intentions do little to prepare students for the real world.

    We don't live in a bubble. We live in a global economy where lessons like Solyndra are the lessons to be learned.

    These kids had to raise over $10k just for a little solar panal experiment that likely makes enough power to maybe power itself.

    This is why we are last in the world in terms of education. Teaching pie in the sky text book visions vs how to survive in the real world and a global economy.

    What is the lesson here, just curious.

  • Hondo Feb 7, 2015

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    Highly doubt that would work very well in the winter. Unless you like your pipes to burst.

    These kids are the future. Like it or not, renewable energy is the future.

  • ohmygosh Feb 7, 2015

    Did they get the whole lesson? That is the economic side. How many cents/kwH did their solar project cost vs current grid prices? Heck if it were used to heat hot water a long section of black hose run across the school roof would do it for under $100.

  • SaveEnergyMan Feb 7, 2015

    "Laws against solar"? Currently NC has a law REQUIRING a certain percentage solar/renewable. Yes, the GOP is trying to freeze that mandate at a lower level, but it is because it is causing the cost of power to increase significantly. It has created a market where an investor can put just a little money into panels, take advantage of 70%+ tax rebates, and charge more than market rate for power. The investors make out like bandits on our tax/power bill dime.

    Having a significant percent renewable also creates problems of spinning reserve - fossil plants operating at zero power but still producing CO2 ready to pick up the load when a cloud moves over the panel. It's a huge problem in Calif now.

    We should also consider the negative aspects of the panels being made in China, the trade deficit, and their gov't.

    Solar is NOT a viable solution for base load power now, but could be in the future with storage technology. Solar water heating is a reasonable solution with backup.

  • teleman60 Feb 7, 2015

    If only the NC GA could take a lesson from these children instead of passing laws to outlaw solar - you've got to wonder just how twisted somebodies thinking has to be to be against solar, wind, thermal energy production.

    I guess it comes in marching orders from Kansas and those oil billionaire boys who want to turn back the clock to Andy and Opie days.

    Anyway, good for the children! Perhaps the adults will learn something...