Solar, Schools and Sustainability: Urban Green Lab

By: Jennifer Westerholm, Director

It’s not everyday that a non-profit’s dreams and a 34-foot gooseneck trailer go hand in hand, but for us here at Urban Green Lab, that’s exactly what is happening.

In a matter of weeks, this trailer will soon be overhauled into a sustainability laboratory and classroom on wheels that we call the “mobile lab”. Our mobile lab will enable us to reach diverse and underserved populations to enhance middle and high schools’ science and technology curricula and inspire sustainable behaviors.

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The lab explores five important topics in sustainability: energy, water, green building, food & agriculture, and sustainable transportation. It challenges students to make everyday choices that save money, resources, and improve their quality of life. Developed in collaboration with teachers, school staff, and students, the mobile lab prevents the need to spend time, energy, and money on permission slips and school buses by bringing hands on activities directly to the students. The lab connects classroom learning with real world applications, employing problem-based learning and interactive activities. As a se2015Mar22BoardRetreat41rvice to our Nashville community, the mobile lab will be offered free of charge to Metro Nashville public middle and high schools and will be available for a reasonable rate to other schools, programs and businesses.

One of the most exciting features is the six 300 watt panels currently being installed by Tennessee Solar Solutions that will power 90% of all the lab’s energy needs. The solar panels enable us to save energy and money on operations costs. Even more importantly we are able to give students a real world experience of the power of solar energy. Incorporating green materials and technologies into the lab creates teachable moments and allows us to “walk the talk”.--+Print+interior+v01+24x15-5-page-001

It is Tennessee Solar Solutions’, along with our other generous sponsors’ contribution of time and materials  that make it all possible! If
you are in Middle Tennessee, be on the lookout for
the mobile lab near you, beginning in February 2016.

 

 

 

For more information about the Urban Green Lab contact:

Devon Barnhard

Communications and Community Engagement, Urban Green Lab

AmeriCorps VISTA

www.urbangreenlab.org

cell:  615-442-7072

How Many Solar Panels Do You Need?

By: Kelsey Meyers, Modernize

Whether you’re still considering going solar or you’re ready to take the first step, you probably want to know what system size you need and how that aspect will affect the cost. Unfortunately, it’s not easy for installers to give you an estimate based just on the size of your house or the dollar signs on your utility bill. But you can use your average monthly energy usage to get an idea of the number of panels you will need.

Determine Your Monthly Electrical Use

1606950_10155702738245223_6135075260557403156_nLook at your monthly energy bills for the last year and determine the average number of kWh, or kilowatts per hour. Divide this by 30 to get your daily kWh. Conservatively assuming that one standard solar cell produces 1 kWh per day, the number you just calculated is the number of panels you would need in order to completely cover your home’s energy needs.

In the meantime, reduce your home’s energy demands by buying more energy efficient appliances—that way, you may not have to buy as many solar panels as the calculator shows. Modernize has plenty of ideas for increasing the efficiency of your home before you install a solar system.

Find Out the Average Peak Sunlight Hours

But energy use isn’t the only factor. The amount of sunlight that your panels get also affects how many you will need to install. The more sunlight they receive, the more they are able to convert that radiant heat and light into energy for your home. If parts of your roof are shaded at certain times a day, you will need more panels to make up for that. As you monitor the quality and amount of sunlight that your roof gets, keep in mind that you’re going to need to install the panels on a south-facing roof for optimum efficiency. If trees or other buildings cast shade on your roof, or if you live in an area that doesn’t receive many hours of sunlight, you’re going to need to plan accordingly.

Decide How You Want to Use Your Solar System

While many prospective solar users dream of covering all of their energy costs, covering just a percentage is also an option. You may only decide to install enough solar panels to keep you out of the higher tiers of energy consumption, or you may just want to start off with just a few panels and build from there. You can cust11889450_10155951057030223_2213302186479320315_nomize your system to your budget—just be sure to avoid making compromises where it counts. For example, you wouldn’t want to buy a cheaper inverter to save money because this will only end up costing you, but you could start off with just one panel and slowly transition to using solar.

Contact the Experts at TN Solar Solar today.