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Originally published: 2012-03-23 10:43:56
Last modified: 2012-03-23 10:44:38

Solar farm field trip

Matthew Hundley / (matthew.hundley@averyjournal.com)

After last week’s turbine unveiling, Avery County Schools adhered to its theme of sustainability in education when students from Avery Middle School’s after school program, YO!, visited the solar farm on Trim Branch Road. Eleven AMS students gathered at the solar farm shortly after school ended on Tuesday, March 13, to meet Rachel McInturff, who spoke to the students on behalf of O2 Energies, the business behind Avery County’s solar array. 
McInturff began her presentation by quizzing the students with some fundamental questions about sustainable energy in general and solar energy specifically.

The students were prepared to respond to McInturff’s questions thanks to Natalie Rossman, who had spent several weeks leading up to the tour visiting the students after school to give them a solid grounding in energy sustainability, efficiency and safety. Rossman visited the class as part of W.A.M.Y./ Americorps efforts to raise awareness of weatherization and energy efficiency. Specifically, Rossman’s lessons included topics such as home weatherization, efficiency, energy saving practices, energy use in vehicles and safety around heat energy sources.

McInturff went on to tie the students’ newly acquired energy education into the particulars of solar energy, discussing everything from the energy output for the plant over the course of the year to the difference between renewable and finite energy sources to how to keep the grass beneath the panels under control. Much to the students’ amusement, McInturff informed them that 02 Energies brings in goats to eat the grass. 

To answer the kids’ inevitable questions about explosions and other catastrophes, McInturff explained that the silicon panels are designed to withstand inclement weather, and that the entire system is designed to shut down if it senses any interruption or surges in the power flow.

Following her presentation to the group, McInturff explained O2 Energies’ desire to incorporate education into the function of the solar array. 

“We want to make sure that every one of our sites is used for the maximum benefit for everyone, including local businesses and schools,” said McInturff.