Riverside Elementary’s new solar array delivers energy for classroom study


Dominion Energy spokesperson Peggy Fox (left foreground) "solarbrates" a new solar array with students at Riverside Elementary School on June 6. (Credit: FCPS)

Update (June 30): The article has been updated below to include some additional information from the NEED Project.

School may be out for the summer, but Riverside Elementary School’s new solar array will keep harnessing sunlight and converting it into energy delivered to the school for classroom study this fall.

Early in June, representatives from Dominion Energy and the National Energy Educational Development (NEED) Project gathered with staff and students at Riverside for “Energy Day” and a “Solarbration” ribbon cutting for their new solar panels. Riverside received them through Dominion’s Solar for Students grant program, which provides photovoltaic systems, teacher training and solar curriculum for K-12 schools that have STEM programming in states where Dominion provides electric service.

Speakers standing in front of the new solar array at Riverside ES discuss how it works with students. (Credit: FCPS)

According to Dominion spokesperson Peggy Fox, students can view how much energy is being produced via a smart board and compare the data with other solar arrays worldwide. The real-time data can be viewed online
as well.

“We hope this hands-on learning sparks a lifelong interest in technology and energy that can help solve the world’s problems,” Fox said in an email.

The system is generating electricity and is about 1.5 kilowatts of power, said Mary Spruill, executive director of the NEED Project. 

"It is connected to the grid at the school, and although it doesn’t generate a lot of electricity, it does provide enough power to operate 15 desktop computers, 33 ten-gallon aquariums or three 42-inch TVs," said Spruill. "The more efficient electronic appliances become, the more the solar electricity will power."

Riverside Elementary, located on Old Mount Vernon Road, is only the third school within Fairfax County Public Schools to receive a Solar for Students grant. The other two schools are Centreville Elementary and Luther Jackson Middle School in Falls Church.

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