CLOVER — Griggs Road Elementary School is one of five South Carolina schools that have been awarded grants to install rooftop solar energy panels from a nonprofit group associated with Duke Energy that promotes renewable energy.
The pilot project allows Duke Energy “to work with the schools to get them both an educational experience and the opportunity to understand how renewables work,” said Duke spokesman Ryan Mosier. “It’s the next step for us in South Carolina.”
The grants of up to $50,000 each, to cover half the cost of the solar panel installation, are given by the nonprofit Palmetto Clean Energy, a collaborate effort among Duke Energy Carolinas, Duke Energy Progress and South Carolina Electric & Gas.
Jim Funderburk, maintenance director for Clover schools, said the solar panel project will help the school “teach the students about clean energy, how it’s produced and what we can do with it.”
Funderburk said the energy created by the solar panels won’t be a significant cost savings for the school, which he estimated at 1 percent or 2 percent, “but it’s a teaching tool.”
Funderburk said this isn’t the district’s first venture into solar power. He said York Electric Cooperative put a solar panel at Clover Middle School, which helps supplement the power to one of the computer labs there.
“Once we teach the kids at an early age, they can go home and teach the parents and it will carry on as they become adults… The whole idea is to get kids thinking about conserving energy so we can conserve energy in the school,” he said.
Funderburk said if the solar panels generate more power than the school uses in the summer, when school is not in session, the school can sell that excess power back to Duke Energy.
The solar program, open to K-12 schools, is aimed at enabling more schools and educational institutions to take advantage of solar technologies by assisting with installation costs.
Funderburk said Clover chose Griggs Road for the installation because it has a large rooftop area for the solar panels, it gets good sunlight and it’s served by Duke Energy.
Kelly Grant, an assistant principal at Griggs Road, sees advantages to “anything we can do to save money and have a little more sustainability here at school, and for pioneering things, which is what we like to do in Clover.”
The four other applicants chosen for the program are Bluffton High and Whale Branch Early College High schools, both in Beaufort County; Dixie Plantation Educational Holdings LLC Environmental Research Station at College of Charleston; and Roper Mountain Science Center in Greenville County.
Installation work is to begin in early 2014, and more grants will be available in the spring.
Jennifer Becknell • 803-329-4077