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NC 4TH-GRADERS "SCHOOL" COMMUNITY ON SOLAR

When students asked teacher Aaron Sebens at Central Park School for Children, Durham, about powering their classroom with the sun, he said, "Why not?" One year later, the fourth-grade classroom is completely powered by solar panels. Sebens said what began as a class project now serves as a testament to the viability of solar energy.

"Every day I walk into the classroom, I have to turn on the solar system. At first it's like, 'Wow, we have all this crazy solar equipment in our classroom!' But after a while, it becomes kind of normal, because it works," Sebens said. Recently, the fourth-graders shared their knowledge of clean energy technology with Congressmen G.K. Butterfield and David Price, and emphasized its importance in protecting the state's air and water. The class has plans to expand its solar capacity someday to power the entire school. According to Environment North Carolina, the state gets about twice as much sunlight as Germany - the world's solar leader. Students are now constructing a wind turbine to generate additional power for their classroom.

Student Margo Russell said it has been easy to make the transition to clean energy. "If we can do it, then anyone can do it," Russell said. "At my house, we use coal electricity and it works fine, but it's definitely not as good for our environment."

Aside from being a hands-on science lesson, Sebens said broadening the scale of the project to an entire school, or school system, could provide a longer-term answer to budget concerns. "To me, it seems like a no-brainer. A lot of people care about their schools, and an easy way for them to give their schools money would be to put in a solar system. It's tax deductible for them, and the school just gets straight capital that they can use for what they need," Sebens explained.

Environment North Carolina helped coordinate the school visit by the congressmen. The nonprofit group's goal is for the state to install 700,000 solar roofs by 2030.

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