Kelley Atherton, The Triplicate

Sunset High School is reaping the benefits from solar panels installed at the school.

Teacher Tom O'Connor applied for a Blue Sky grant from Pacific Power and the school was awarded $20,000, which paid for 18 solar panels.

O'Connor and the high schoolers installed the solar panels on the roof of the school themselves.

He wanted to help the school save money on electricity by harnessing

the sun's energy, but also teach his students about solar energy and how

to install the panels.

They took measurements, calculated how much electricity would be generated and then got up on the roof to do the installation.

This hands-on work "gives the kids a little bit more experience and skills they can get out of here with," O'Connor said.

He wants to apply for another grant for more solar panels and do a threeandndash; to four-week electrical course.

The solar panels have been running since late August, O'Connor said,

and Pacific Power is helping him measure how much energy has been

converted into electricity and how much money has been saved.

"It's a great little project," said Monte Mendenhall, regional

community manager for Pacific Power, "We like working with the schools

because there's an education component and it's a very visible project."

Pacific Power has also awarded a Blue Sky grant to Crescent Elk Middle School for its solar and wind energy project.

The projects provide a "hands-on demonstration for the community and

work well with the curriculum at the schools," said Mendenhall, who will

be visiting Sunset next week.

The amount of energy generated by the sun should offset what electricity the school is using, he said.

Any excess electricity will go back to Pacific Power and "we get credit for that," O'Connor said.

O'Connor wants the students to graph how much electricity is being generated over the period of a month and the entire year.

"We gotta keep them busy," he said.

Reach Kelley Atherton at