In 2009 the Walmart Foundation made a $1.2 million donation to the National Energy Education Development Project (NEED). A nationwide “solar schools” program was born. The initiative was conceived to install solar electric systems as part of an integrated approach to classroom education. Installations would take place at twenty schools across the nation in the cities of Seattle, Los Angeles, Chicago, Minneapolis and Washington D.C.
Capital Sun was selected to design and install the four systems in Washington D.C. These were Brent Elementary, Anne Beers Elementary, Burroughs Elementary and Washington MST Charter High School. Teachers were provided instructional aids and training relating to their solar energy systems, as students track real-time and historical data from their solar system through a web monitoring system.
Three of the four schools have similar systems consisting of 24 Schott Poly 225 Watt panels (5.4 kW) and an SMA SB5000 inverter. Capital Sun identified the best roof location for an array and installed a ballast racking system. What that means is that the panels are secured to the roof not through fasteners but through hold-down weight.
For the fourth school, Washington MST Charter High School, the system utilized 28 Sanyo bifacial HIT195 DA3 panels for a 5.46 kW system. Central to this installation was visibility from ground level. A custom-designed, steel mounting system was executed to mount the array off of the roof parapet. Because the back side of the panels were exposed, the decision was made to use bi-facial (two-sided) panels to maximize the energy produced.
The final school of the grouping, Brent Elementary, was fully commissioned in October 2011.