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BAMBERG — Since the beginning of February, a sixth-grade science project has been powering classrooms and children’s curiosity at Richard Carroll Elementary School.

Through a partnership between the school and utilities, students are getting a first-hand look at the power of solar energy.

“The way we use energy is going to play an extremely important role ... in meeting our state’s needs,” said Lonnie Carter, president and chief executive officer of Santee Cooper.

“This investment here at the Richard Carroll Elementary School as a green power solar school is part of that important future investment in renewable energy in our state. What this solar panel is doing is taking energy from the sun and transforming it into electricity in a form we can use,” he said.

The Bamberg Board of Public Works and Santee Cooper dedicated the school as the state’s 28th Green Power Solar School during a Friday ceremony.

The school has been equipped with a 2-kilowatt solar power system that is already producing electricity from the sun’s rays, providing students with a firsthand look at the opportunities and challenges of solar power.

Richard Carroll’s solar energy project has been in the works for three years, sixth-grade science teacher Bobbie Bunch said.

There was lot of paperwork, but it paid off in the end, according to Bunch.

The main concept she wanted kids to take away from the project is that energy is everywhere. It cannot be created or destroyed. It’s how things get moved around or transformed.

“It’s kind of a hard concept for the kids to wrap their minds around because you can’t really see it, feel it or touch it,” she said. “You can see it in action, but you can’t really touch it.”

Sixth-grader John Marshall said he learned about phototropism, where plants grow toward the sun so they can get as much energy as possible for photosynthesis.

That’s where the sun’s energy, water and carbon dioxide go into the plant and make sugar, he said.

The project was “pretty fun,” Marshall said.

A solar array panel was put in place last winter while students were out on break. It’s been collecting the sun’s energy and transforming it into useable electricity ever since.

“It traps the electricity, breaks up the electrons,” Bunch said. “The electrons flow into the building with the system we already have set up and it powers up everything we have in the building.”

The kids can go online and see how many kilowatts the array brings in per second, Bunch said.

The solar array was put into place by Santee Cooper and the Bamberg Department of Public Works at no expense to Bamberg District One.

“Solar energy is the future,” said Matt Medlin, chairman of the Bamberg Board of Public Works. “We can harness the sun’s energy.

“These kids have no idea about the power that lies at their fingertips.”

Contact the writer: dlinder-altman@timesanddemocrat.com or 803-533-5529.

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