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Texas Middle School Targets 'Net Zero Energy' with 582 KW Solar Plant

LBJ Middle School's roof-based solar system will be composed of cylindrical panels to capture "direct, diffuse and reflected sunlight" and convert it to energy.

This summer Lady Bird Johnson Middle School, part of Irving Independent School District in Texas, will go online with a new 582 kilowatt solar installation. The move is part of a plan to make the school the largest "net zero middle school in the United States," according to the district.

A "net zero" facility, as the school described it, is one that consumes no more energy than it produces. LBJ Middle School's net zero design consists of a system of low-weight, cylindrical solar panels covering the facility's entire 150,000 square foot roof. Forty solar modules wired in parallel will make up each solar panel used in the system, which will be designed and installed by GridPoint. The district will be able to monitor energy production and consumption via a Web-based management tool called the GridPoint Energy Management System.

The building itself will be made of energy-efficient materials, which will allow the school to consume half the energy of a typical middle school, according to information released by the district.

Scott Layne, Irving ISD assistant superintendent for support services, explained that the super-efficient building will also become a living laboratory for students. "The zero-energy school will reinforce teaching and learning as it becomes an extended classroom. With the use of efficient materials and cutting-edge renewable energy technology, the building transforms into a three-dimensional learning space," he said in a prepared statement.

Irving ISD elaborated: "Students will learn through practical, hands-on experiences. Issues such as geothermal science, rainwater collection, solar panel usage, and wind turbine efficiency will help students learn responsibility for energy conservation."

GridPoint said the school's solar plant will go online in August. Irving ISD has made a virtual tour of the middle school available for public viewing here. Additional details can be found here.

About the Author

David Nagel is the former editorial director of 1105 Media's Education Group and editor-in-chief of THE Journal, STEAM Universe, and Spaces4Learning. A 30-year publishing veteran, Nagel has led or contributed to dozens of technology, art, marketing, media, and business publications.

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