Green and Gold Energy

Casey Crocker and Alec McGreevy

Sehome High School will be receiving a solar makeover within the next upcoming weeks. The roof of the new building has been rigged with dozens of solar panel mounts in anticipation for the upcoming installation of Sehome’s newly acquired solar panels. The “B grade” panels were donated to the school by Silfab Solar, in order to run tests on the functionality of slightly damaged or minorly defective panels. The company plans to run diagnostics to see how well the panels perform. The district hopes that this will be a net win across the board, with the school receiving complementary solar power, and Silfab Solar getting the insight they need to better market their products.

Birds eye: aerial shot provided by Dawson Construction shows the solar panels being installed on the south side of Sehome High School above the library. On the left side of the frame, you can see the holsters that the panels will be placed into within the next month.

The B grade panels, although considered less efficient, will most likely perform properly according to Sonia Bell, Principal of Sehome High School. “They (Silfab) think that the B grade panels will be 2% less effective than the A grade panels,” Bell said. “They were donated to us by Silfab for the purpose of collecting data on the B grade panels.” Sehome is acting as a “guinea pig” in this case, so the company can determine whether the lower quality panels are reliable enough to be sold for profit, according to Bell. Julie Hiett, a math teacher at Sehome, also spoke about the testing. “The solar panels are made in Bellingham, they are B grade panels and they are gathering data to see if they are effective,” Hiett said. “I think it’s cool that they could use Sehome as a guinea pig. I actually toured the old facility of Itech (the old company name), I’ve never seen so many solar panels in one place. It was probably 5-6 years ago.”

The panels are being installed on the south side of the building by Dawson construction. “The time frame isn’t ideal; we were hoping they could install them over the summer,” Bell said. “They had to do engineering tests to make sure the 350 panels could be supported on the roof.” Mrs. Hiett also commented about the installation process. “I wish they could have installed them over the summer, or during weekends,” Hiett said. “The noise at some times has been very loud, we even had a guest speaker during that extremely loud session. At some points, I was a little concerned something would fall through the roof.”

Prep for panels: up-close shot.

All 350 solar panels won’t be installed right away, because Silfab doesn’t have access to all of the B grade panels as of right now. The panels will be installed as Silfab acquires the damaged panels from clients, according to Bell. “Once the panels are all installed, were going to connect to the Puget Sound Energy board,” Bell said. “If our energy production exceeds our energy consumption, we can send that energy back into the grid. We will receive credit or money from Puget for doing this.” Bell also added, “The hope would be to break even, to have our energy production rates equal our energy consumption rates. If we exceeded this goal it would definitely be a bonus for us.”