De Soto school adds solar, wind power

Shane Paulsen, left, and Troy Robinson, with The Energy Savings Store, were on the roof of Starside Elementary School in De Soto on Tuesday installing four solar panels and a wind turbine. The panels and turbine will be used not only to power a small part of the school but also to teach the students about sustainability.

? The 2009 Kansas Green School of the Year just got a little greener.

On Tuesday, a crew from the Energy Savings Store put in four solar panels and started installing a wind turbine on the roof of Starside Elementary School in De Soto.

“This is so exciting,” Paula Henderson, the school’s counselor, said. “We’ve been waiting for years to do this.”

The panels and turbine are a part of the school’s efforts to reduce its carbon footprint while teaching the kids about sustainability.

Each solar panel will be able to produce about 175 watts of electricity. The amount of electricity produced by the panels and the wind turbine will be charted and put on display on the school’s website.

Henderson said teachers will be able to show their students how much power the panels and turbine have created that day or since they were installed.

She said the amount of energy the panels produce won’t be enough to power the school, but they bought a unit that can be expanded to produce more electricity.

The total cost of the panels and turbine was about $12,000. The school raised $3,000 for the project and received grant money for the rest.

The wind turbine’s energy will be used for another project that will begin this summer. Henderson hopes to install an electric train set behind a display case just inside the school that will be powered by the turbine. The train will travel around a green town and will make stops at the recycling depot or the houses of clay models that represent the Starside teachers.

“I think it will be a fun thing to watch,” Henderson said.

When not powering the train, the extra electricity will be used to charge rechargeable batteries for the school.

The solar panels and wind turbine are just a couple of things the school has done to become more sustainable. Besides a major recycling effort, the school has recently started an organic vegetable garden that uses the compost made in worm farms in the classrooms.