Missouri Schools Going Solar (MSGS) was created to educate students, teachers and communities about the importance of electricity as an energy form, the value of renewable solar energy in meeting current and future energy needs, and solar energy technologies. This project served K-12 schools with an interest in solar electric energy and the initiative to create a partnership with the Division of Energy, the local electric utility, and their local community to accomplish a solar array installation. The interconnected 1 kilowatt (kW) photovoltaic array supported a small amount of electrical load for a school building. While the arrays generate some electricity, the program offered an even greater opportunity for students, parents, teachers, government agencies, utilities, and communities to increase their awareness and familiarity with solar electric energy technologies that are successfully in use throughout the world. The Division of Energy managed the project on behalf of partnerships with AmerenUE and with Kansas City Power and Light, each of which provided funding for this program within their respective territories.
Schools chosen to participate in MSGS benefited from a two-part program for energy education:
Part one included the installation of a 1-kW interconnected photovoltaic array on school grounds. This array generates a small amount of electricity but has the potential to generate lots of community and school interest, enthusiasm and understanding about clean, renewable solar electric energy. The standard MSGS package system included a 1-kW pole-mounted array. The estimated cost of the hardware with installation was $21,500, procured by the Division of Energy. Awarded schools had the option of "upgrading" the system to a larger or different type of array but were responsible for any costs above a standard MSGS package. Applicants cash match of $2,500 was used for the educational component, described below.
Missouri Schools Going Solar provided a free training session on proper operation and maintenance of the photovoltaic hardware. Maintenance is minimal but this training for facility and maintenance management ensured that the school understood how to maintain its new equipment.
Part two was an energy education program providing grade-appropriate interdisciplinary curricular materials and teacher training consistent with Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education standards.
This educational component targeted the school's existing math or science curriculum to provide additional supplemental material and instruction about energy forms and sources with special emphasis on photovoltaic technology. Coupled with the solar array installation, this has been an effective method for energy education in other states that have offered this type of program. The education programs varied somewhat depending on which utility provides power to the school. Applicants cash match of $2,500 was used for the educational component described above.
In the AmerenUE electric service territory, the Earthways Center worked with the schools and provided direct training to teachers and co-taught students in the subject of energy efficiency and renewable energy. A half-day teacher training for up to 20 teachers per school equipped teachers with sufficient knowledge to incorporate the supplemental curricular materials and activities into the classroom. The student education goal of MSGS was to educate as many students as possible to become "solar ambassadors" in their community and enable them to explain energy issues and photovoltaic technology. The schools chose the option that would help it best meet this goal.
In the KCPL electric service territory, schools were required to commit to a similar education program but the schools were responsible for procuring the appropriate educational resources to meet those goals. The $2,500 match provided by the school was used for this purpose. Missouri Schools Going Solar allowed each school to create an energy education program that would benefit the school.
In addition to the cash match of $2,500, schools provide at least two personal computers (not Apple) for data capture and viewing. One of these computers was dedicated only to the MSGS program.
Missouri Schools Going Solar awarded 17 schools with photovoltaic arrays.
The selection process identified schools capable of successfully implementing both parts of this energy education program: energy education in the classroom and installation of a 1-kW interconnected photovoltaic array. Proper implementation of a Missouri Schools Going Solar program required significant dedication and time. Awards were distributed on the basis of an equitable and objective selection process that included the following general criteria:
- Likelihood of success as detailed in responses to the application and required action plan;
- Geographic location and population density (awards were distributed to reflect the diverse community types within AmerenUE and KCPL Missouri electric service territories);
- Economic status of students in the district;
- Results of site inspection (proposed array location value in generating public awareness).
To ensure that MSGS was an ongoing part of school activities, each school was required to integrate into existing curricula and school programs the MSGS energy education teacher training and curriculum supplements. A written action plan explained how the school involved students, faculty and staff, promoted the photovoltaic array installation to the community and interacted with the broader community concerning energy issues. Applicants demonstrated that their approach involved teachers, students and administrators committed to making the installation one of its cornerstone learning experiences. Some applicants formed "solar partnerships" with local business, government, higher education or other partners to maximize the impact of the MSGS project.
Each school’s action plan included the following elements:
- Identify a specific staff member who has been designated "solar program coordinator." Cite qualifications of this staff member to serve as coordinator and specific steps the coordinator will take to maximize the impact of the MSGS project. Describe the coordinator's ability to work with administration, facilities personnel, teachers, and the community at-large.
- Describe how the school has recruited a team of teachers committed to the program and how the solar program coordinator works with them, once they are trained, to achieve MSGS goals.
- Describe how the school partners with the local community, local media and institutions, and local businesses to build awareness of the photovoltaic array and energy issues in general.
- Describe a community open house or other public event held within six months of installation so that the general community can learn how the photovoltaic array functions.
- Describe any related solar or energy education activities currently used or planned in the school.
- Identify who is responsible for care and maintenance of the photovoltaic hardware and why this person(s) is the appropriate choice.
- Identify who oversees the installation of the photovoltaic hardware and why this person(s) is the appropriate choice.
Applicants submitted signed agreements at the time of application. Public schools signed agreements with the Missouri Department of Natural Resources while private schools signed an agreement with their respective utility. The MSGS signed agreement included requirements for funding, maintenance, education, and insurance.
Applicants submitted a signed copy of the appropriate connection agreement at the time of application. Utilities require a "connection agreement" whenever distributed generation (such as a photovoltaic array) makes connection to the utility electric grid.