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July 02, 2004

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Publication Date: Friday, July 02, 2004

Theuerkauf goes solar Theuerkauf goes solar (July 02, 2004)

PG&E offers school science, math curriculum

By Julie O'Shea

Impressed with Mountain View's "cutting-edge" ideas, PG&E said it wants to bring the wonders of solar energy to the city's schools, starting this summer with Theuerkauf Elementary.

The Solar Schools Program, now in its initial phase, will hook Theuerkauf teachers up with a new math and science curriculum package focused on getting kids excited about solar energy. In addition, the school will be wired with a "turn-key" solar generation system that will produce enough electricity to light a small portable classroom, according to a spokesperson for the gas and electric company.

The best part about this program, school officials said, is that it won't cost the district a dime. PG&E's charitable contributions department, along with the help of nonprofit agencies, will provide the needed funding. Besides Theuerkauf, PG&E is set to bring the Solar Schools Program to six other campuses in Central and Northern California this fall.

"It sounds really positive," Mountain View-Whisman School District Superintendent Jim Negri said. And if the program is a success, the next question is: "Do we begin replicating it at another school."

This is PG&E's hope. Ezra Garrett, the manager of the Solar Schools Program, said his company is dedicated to lending aid to underserved schools in its service area and is excited about the newly developed program that could have students building small replicas of solar-powered cars and houses right in their classrooms. The curriculum also has a Web-based component, enabling teachers and students to view real-time data on how much power is being used and generated.

The photovoltaic (PV) solar generation system, which has a lifespan of at least 20 years, will be used mostly as a learning tool. Garrett said PG&E wants to install the system on a pole with an old-fashioned meter, giving students a chance to watch it and learn first-hand how solar energy is generated. PG&E has promised to use a local contractor to install the system this summer.

The generator, which captures sunlight and turns it into electric power, is estimated to produce 2.7 kilowatts of energy -- or enough to light a small classroom.

"It's kind of a toe-tap into PV at schools," Garrett said.

But it's better than nothing, Negri said. "Anything is good," the superintendent said.

E-mail Julie O'Shea at [email protected]

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