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    Blue Ridge Middle School dedicates solar panels

    photoTimes-Mirror Staff Photo/Aaron Koepper. A Blue Ridge middle school student prepares to cut the ribbon at the Thursday morning dedication of the school’s six solar panels.

    Ribbons fell Nov. 15 as students of Blue Ridge Middle School gathered to watch the dedication of six solar panels that will light their parking lot.

    Sixteen students from the middle school helped research what solar panel costs and the benefits of solar power. They presented their efforts during the ceremony.

    They worked during teacher workdays because of school cancellations for Hurricane Sandy, according to Blue Ridge principal Brion Bell.

    “They [teachers] created a student solar research group,” Bell said. “Their work just scratches the surface of the value of conservation.”

    Each student spent about 15 hours of time researching for the project, according Blue Ridge science teacher Jackie Robertson.

    The panels have a one-time installation cost of $70,000, according to Blue Ridge student Samantha Hinton.

    “It costs Blue Ridge nothing to keep them running because they operate on their own,” Samantha said during the dedication. “It took a very short time to install them – only three days.”

    The solar panels save the school $1,500 a month in maintenance and electricity costs, according to Blue Ridge student Jacob Coleman.

    Using solar panels simplified the construction process – conventional light would required the school to dig up the parking lot to wire the lights to an existing source of power, Jacob said.

    Loudoun County Vice Chairman Janet Clarke (R-Blue Ridge), praised the students’ presentations.

    “I was tremendously impressed by how articulate the students were and they research that they did,” Clarke said after the dedication.

    The project was started when former Blue Middle principal Roberta Griffith went to the school’s Parent-Teacher Organization looking for help putting lights in the parking lot.

    “For 10 years I’d been begging for lights in the parking lot,” Griffith said. “It was a safety issue that it was so dark out there.”

    The PTO raised about $20,000 to help defray the costs of the panels from local organizations, including Wegmans, Giant Food, Great Country Farms and the Helmut Wolfgang Schulmann Fund.

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