College Station high school students learn about solar energy on campus

Students tour the solar installation at the Netum Steed BuildingDr. Robert Balog, assistant professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, offered a unique opportunity to a group of high school science teachers from A&M Consolidated High School: a chance to tour the solar installation at the Netum Steed Building on campus.

The solar project consists of a 27.6 kW photovoltaic solar panel array that is visible from Kyle Field. It serves as a demonstration test site for photovoltaic (solar electricity) generation on the Texas A&M campus and supports the education, research and community outreach missions of the university. While solar energy and photovoltaic systems are well known in California, the different temperatures and sunlight availability in Texas can result in different requirements for system design and best practices.

The project is designed to test four different brand-name inverters and a micro-inverter system to compare their electrical energy generation, operation and performance. The micro-inverter system involves a newer technology in which multiple low-power micro-inverters are used to convert an array's power. These micro-inverters can theoretically produce more power from the same solar panel and are ideal for residential systems where the roof may be partially shaded by trees or chimneys.

As part of the project's community outreach, the solar installation will be used to promote renewable energy and increase awareness of solar energy use for Aggies, alumni and regional residents.

Stephanie Miller, IPC level leader with the science department at A&M Consolidated High School, said "Our tour was a great educational experience. As teachers, it is such a thrill to see a hands-on example of topics we cover in class."

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