School Funding

Pollution regulation funds 545 solar panels at Peoria school

PEORIA – Years of pollution at the Edwards coal-fired power plant in Bartonville help produce a cleaner future with $ 1.5 million in funding Woodruff Career and Technical Center.

Money part of an $ 8.6 million settlement in a case against the owners of the plant, is being used to pay for the school’s solar panels and help fund a brand new program to prepare students for jobs in the growing renewable energy field.

When the students returned to school in the fall, they arrived just in time to witness the installation of 545 solar panels on the roofs of the school’s two gymnasiums. The 22 students in the renewable energy class were able to monitor progress through their classroom windows, which face the construction site.

Learn more about the regulations:Grants in Edwards Power Plant Settlement

“The students were able to interact with electricians and follow the progress of the installation of everything. The only thing they won’t see is the electricity hook-up, in which Ameren is very much involved. This is happening during the Christmas holidays because they will have to cut the power, ”said Mike Brix, renewable energy instructor. “What we can do next semester is monitor the solar panels to see how much energy is being produced each day, each hour. And then they will record that to find out how much electricity is generated on a very sunny day versus a day when the panels are covered in snow.

An elaborate concrete block rig keeps the solar panels weighted to prevent high winds from blowing them away.

The settlement money will also be used to purchase tools for the new program, including those used to conduct home electrical usage assessments, a key part of the solar installation process.

“When we started this program, we thought the need was going to be for solar installers, but what we found is that this is only a small part of what they do. The biggest part is basically looking at your home’s power consumption and what we can do to reduce your power consumption, and then figuring out how much solar energy we can put into your home. Renewable energy students are now focusing more on how to do an assessment of your electrical consumption in your home versus installing a solar panel, ”Brix said.

In addition to solar power, students also learn about the technology behind electric cars. Children interested in new technology learn the steps to take to work in the industry.

Director Arnold Spiker and Renewable Energy Instructor Mike Brix walk through some of the 545 solar panels installed on the roof of the Woodruff Career and Technical Center in Peoria.

Woodruff Career and Technical Center is part of Peoria’s public schools, and the 16 different training programs it offers are open to juniors and seniors across the district. Students enrolled in the program are transported to Woodruff for part of each school day to learn a skill that could lead to employment.

“They can still go to college, but we also give them the opportunity to work in a career to offset costs, like barbering. You can get a barber’s license and cut your hair and make money while going to college, ”said director Arnie Spiker. “They can also make a career out of it. It gives them choices. ”

The key to the program is mentoring and placement. In her role as Career Path Coordinator, Sarah Chapman finds internship opportunities in the community to help connect children with employers.

“We have the possibility, thanks to public funding, of providing them with a training salary, so it is a way of partnering with employers by asking them to take students under their wing, train them and supervise them,” Chapman said.

Josh Fries, an electrician with Ruyle Mechanical Services Inc., secures loose wiring around solar panels on the roof of the Woodruff Quarry and Engineering Center.

As well as providing a learning experience, the new solar panels will also bring a much needed break from the energy costs of the former Woodruff High School. Built in 1937, the large building is not cheap to operate. While district officials weren’t able to immediately say how much money could be saved, the annual savings are likely to be substantial.

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“It’s supposed to provide a quarter of the energy this building needs,” Brix said. “When we start the second half, it will be up and running. ”

Leslie Renken can be reached at (309) 370-5087 or [email protected] Follow her on

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