Western Branch gets unique new roof

Published 10:27 pm Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Students at Western Branch High School are soon to have a unique front row seat to the effects of solar-powered energy.

“It’s going to be massive,” said John Bailey, director of school plants for Chesapeake Public Schools.

More than 3,000 solar panels will be put into the school’s roof, and the project has an estimated completion date of January, according to a Dominion Power news release. It is the first high school in Virginia to become a part of the Dominion project.

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Construction of the project was set to begin this week, but due to the expected inclement weather, it may not begin until next week, Bailey said.

While the school system already takes the time to teach its students about energy conservation, the solar panels will create a different experience at Western Branch.

“That will be unique to that school and their community,” Bailey said.

“They’ll see it every day when they go to school,” said Bonita Harris, Dominion Virgi ia Power spokeswoman, of the students. They will get the chance to participate in workshops where they will get a first-hand look at how solar-powered energy works. “This is a completely new program,” Harris said of the high school’s educational program.

One exciting opportunity the students will have is to see the levels of energy being generated, such as noticing the energy levels rising on hotter days and lowering on cooler days, Harris said.

In order to get the project in motion, there were some very particular requirements, including a new, flat roof, as well as access to a particular electrical circuit, she said.

About one megawatt of energy will be generated through the school’s new solar energy system, which is enough to support the electricity of more than 165 homes, Bailey said. As it’s being generated, the power will go to the energy grid that is used to power various parts of the city, he added.

With the projects they have in place, as well as the ones already running, they have accumulated 7.75 megawatts, Harris said. Dominion’s goal is to get build up 30 megawatts worth of solar-powered energy in Virginia. This would be enough to power 7,500 homes, Harris said.

“We’re just thrilled we can partner with Chesapeake Public Schools to do it,” she added.