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The Altamont School: Green energy atop Red Mountain

The Altamont School installed solar panels along the building’s exterior earlier this year. Yates said that the solar panels is a 14,700-watt system, which can produce about 22,000 kilowatts a year. Photo by Ian Keel/Photo Editor

Anthony Roney
Community Reporter

Atop Red Mountain sits a jewel for clean energy and smart consumption. That jewel is called the Altamont School.

The Altamont School has built new solar panels for energy production for the school. It is the first Birmingham-area school to have a substantial amount of their energy produced from solar power.

We are interested in it of course, for the savings, but, also, we think that it's the responsible thing to do and to introduce our students and faculty to consumption of energy and smart ways to do that,” said Sarah Whiteside, head of the Altamont School. “Our focus this year has been on alternative energy sources so, the timing of it worked really well with that.”

Sam Yates, president of Eagle Solar and Light, LLC, led the implementation of the solar panels for the Altamont School. He felt that the exposure to this renewable energy is imperative to the students of the school.

Whiteside said that the school displays a panel that shows information and statistics about how much the solar panels produce daily. She said that the students are already very interested. With the panels, Yates also uses an app to track how much energy has been produced in a certain period of time.

“Our approach is to come in and do something like this and participate in the educational process where it fits,” Yates said. “It’s an opportunity for some of these kids to learn more and maybe participate in the industry.”

Yates said that the solar panels comprise a 14,700-watt system, which can produce about 22,000 kilowatts a year. He also said that the production is in the shape of a bell because there is the least amount of sunlight in the winter, a little more in the spring, the most amount in the summer and it decreases again with the fall. He said that this accounts for about 20 percent of the school’s usage. He said in a year, this would save about $2,900.

The Altamont School and ELS began talks to have solar energy production last fall. They worked out a deal over the holiday season and began construction in the middle of January. Yates said that the implementation took two weeks for installation and setup.

Whiteside said that she hopes to make thoughtful consumers out of her Altamont students in the future.

“Everybody sees the educational advantage to this as well as the sustainability,” Whiteside said.

With their new solar panels, the Altamont School will be leading a green-energy charge in the state of Alabama as well as Birmingham. Hopefully, they will serve as a fine example for other schools and even companies to switch to cleaner and renewable forms of energy.

“We’re very pleased to be on the front end of this for Birmingham, for Alabama, for our students and for the community,” said Whiteside. “We’re here for teaching and learning, and I think until you have experience with something like this you don’t really understand it and then it’s like a working lab here for the students.”

Anthony Roney can be reached at roney16@uab.edu.

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