The six solar panels are mounted on a 21-foot pole near the Richmond Hill High School cafeteria. The energy they generate is just enough to light 12 100-watt lightbulbs.
But it was enough to bring U.S. Rep. Jack Kingston to campus Tuesday morning. And those behind the Sun Power for Schools program hope it also lights the imagination.
"Our goal is to learn more about it," Coastal Electric Cooperative CEO Whit Hollowell said during the project’s unveiling Tuesday at RHHS. "This is a partnership with the high school, the utility and the public to find out exactly how solar power will work in our environment."
Richmond Hill is one of 15 high schools in the state involved in the project, which is funded through a $160,000 grant from Geen Power EMC, a cooperative formed by 32 of the state’s electric coops, including Coastal Electric.
Kingston, who praised both Coastal Electric and the Bryan County school system, said he wasn’t surprised by the partnership between Coastal EMC and RHHS – which also is aimed at sparking more interest among students in science.
"It’s so important to get children to think about these things," Kingston said. "What is a novelty to us becomes commonplace to them."
Richmond Hill High School Principal Charles Spann said the project -- which includes computers to monitor the output and a classroom curriculum for teachers to follow -- may help generate more classroom interest in science, something that has been declining.
"I think you will see it put to good use in our science department," he said.
Bryan County Schools Superintendent Dr. Sallie Brewer said the Sun Power for Schools project is another example of the support the schools get from businesses.
"We have a lot of unique cirriculum projects going on in our schools because of their support," she said.
But this may be more than simply a science project. Kingston said the U.S. imports about 60 percent of the energy it uses.
"We need to move towrad energy independence on all fronts," he said. "I’m extremely interested in this. Anything that saves energy has my interest."
The solar panel system at RHHS was installed by Oneworld Sustainable, which also partners with schools across the state.
"We can go to a data link and see what each school is doing and how much power is being produced," said Oneworld Senior Manager Bill Traver. "We’re accumulating this information for the EMCs to look at what solar power can really do."
The electricity generated on the Richmond Hill campus will go to Coastl Electric’s distribution system, where it will become part of a mix of renewable energy, according to Coastal spokesperson Anne Cordeiro.
Hollowell said the Sun Power project is another part of an effort by EMCs to find clean, economic and renewable resources.
"It’s grain of sand on a beach," he siad. "But it is a start and we’re excited about being a part of it."