HRVHS receives funding to install 80 rooftop solar panels

With tight budgets, public schools often have to reconcile cutting costs with maintaining quality educational services.

Hood River Valley High School recently received funding to install 80 solar panels to the roof of the building’s science wing, which will not only help reduce the facility’s energy bill, but will also expand educational opportunities for its students.

The school is one of over a dozen facilities in Oregon that have received grant funding through Pacific Power’s Blue Sky Renewable Energy program. This nonprofit arm of the utility company is responsible for providing funding to “help bring new renewable energy facilities on-line” according to its website.

HRVHS received over $38,000 from Blue Sky and another $36,000 from the Oregon Department of Energy for the project, according to Principal Rich Polkinghorn. He added that most of the $8,000 that comprises the remaining portion of the project is being covered by corporate and private donations.

The panels are expected to save the school approximately $2,300 a year in electricity costs, which represents a 1- to 2-percent dent in the school’s total electric bill.

Polkinghorn acknowledged the cost reduction is “not a ton, but it helps,” and added that of equal importance to cost-saving is the educational component of the project, which will benefit students in the high school’s alternative energy resources class as well as the Earth Club.

“The students will get to have a more back-end, hands-on experience with the panels,” he noted, and added that renewable energy is “great to participate in and it’s a great message to kids.”

Ted Cramer, a science teacher at HRVHS who also serves as the instructor for the alternative energy resources class as well as Earth Club advisor, helped consult on the grant that was written by Hood River County Education Foundation Executive Director Paul Lindberg. Cramer said his students have already had hands-on experience with renewable energy by studying the electrical productivity of the school’s wind turbine located on the southwest side of campus, but noted the solar panels will provide a new, needed challenge.

“Solar energy is the missing link in our renewable energy consortium,” he said, “and these solar panels will help fill that niche.”

In addition to tracking the power-generating capacity of the panels, Cramer added that students will also implement a cost-benefit analysis regarding the panel’s installation, figuring out how much power the panels need to produce and how long they need to produce it before the panels have recouped their cost.

Like Polkinghorn, Cramer said the panels won’t make a huge impact in the school’s utility bills, but they could become more valuable over time, noting that “electricity costs are likely not going to go anywhere but up.”

The installation date of the panels has not been set in stone, but Cramer said the panels should be up and running before the beginning of the 2014-15 school year.

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Parkdale third graders sing "12 Disaster Days of Christmas"

Welcome to your sing-able Christmas gift list. What follows is an emergency rendition of “12 Days of Christmas” – for outfitting your home or car in case of snow storm, earthquake, flood or other emergency. Read it as a simple list, or sing it to the tune of “12 Days” – you know, as in “ … and a partridge in a pear tree…” Not to make light of it, but the song is a familiar framework for a set of gift ideas that you could consider gathering together, even if the recipient already owns items such as a bunch of coats, tire chains and flashlights. Stores throughout the Gorge are stocked up on all these items. Buying all 12 days might be prohibitive, but here are three ideas for checking any of the dozen off your list (notations follow, 1-12.) The gift items needed to stay warm, dry and safe are also coded to suggest items in your abode (A) in your car (C) or both (B). 12 Gallons of Water (A) 11 Family meals (B) 10 Cans of propane (A) 9 Hygiene bags (B) 8 Packs of batteries (A) 7 Spare coats (B) 6 Bright red flares (C) 5 Cozy blankets (B) 4 Tire chains (C) 3 Flashlights (B) 2 cell phone chargers (B) 1 And a crush-proof first aid kit (B) Price ranges? Here’s a few quotes for days Three, Two, Four and Nine: n A family gift of flashlights (three will run $15-30, Hood River Supply, Tum-A-Lum) n Cell phone chargers (two will run $30-60) n Tire chains (basic set, $30, Les Schwab, returnable if unused for the winter) n Family meals ($100 or so should cover the basics for three or four reasonably well-fed days) n The home kit should be kept in a handy place near an exit, and remember that water needs to be replenished every few months. If you have a solid first aid kit already, switch out the gift idea with “and-a-sto-o-u-t- tub-for it-all …” Otherwise, it’s a case of assembling your home or car kits and making sure all members of the family know what the resources are and how to use them (ie flares and propane). Emergency situations are at worst life-threatening, at best deeply uncomfortable if you and your family are left without power for an extended period, or traveling and find yourself in a situation where you need to wait out a storm, lengthy traffic delay, or other crisis. Notes on the 12 gift ideas: 12 – Gallons of water: that’s one per person in a four-member family to last for three days, the recommended minimum to be prepared for utility outages. 11 – Easy-open packaged goods, energy bars, dried food and nuts are good things to include for nutrition. Think of what your family of four needs for three days to stay fortified and hydrated (see number 12). Can-opener also recommended 10 – If you have a propane camping stove, keep extra fuel handy. 9 – Hygiene bags: put packaged moistened towelettes, toilet paper, and plastic ties in large garbage bags (for personal sanitation) Resource list courtesy of Hood River County Emergency Management, Barbara Ayers, manager/ 541-386-1213. The county also reminds residents to Get a Kit, Make A Plan to connect your family if separated, and Stay Informed. See to opt-in for citizen alerts. Enlarge

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