New solar panel project at Chesapeake’s Western Branch High is largest in Virginia

Students at Western Branch High are gaining access to a large new learning environment – on the roof of their school.

In recent months, more than 3,200 solar panels have been installed . The system, created in partnership with Dominion Virginia Power, started producing energy last week.

At peak sunlight, the panels should produce enough energy for more than 200 homes. Dominion calls it the largest single rooftop solar energy system in Virginia.

For school officials, it’s also an educational opportunity. Teachers will be able to incorporate solar energy into their lessons.

“It shows students the benefits of energy conservation,” said James Roberts, superintendent of Chesapeake schools, after a ceremony Wednesday.

The project is part of Dominion’s Solar Partnership Program, under which Dominion leases space at facilities to install solar panels. A goal for the company is to expand its understanding of community-based solar energy.

A breeze swept through and bright sunshine poured down as Dominion project manager Mike Gurganus stood on the roof Wednesday afternoon. The school is an ideal location, he said. Dominion’s power needs are typically greater later in the day, when people are home from work. Because of where and how Western Branch is situated, he said, the panels should be able to generate a good amount of power at those times.

Dominion officials emphasized the educational aspect Wednesday, noting the company will provide materials to help teachers work the project into lessons.

“I hope that some of their students will be inspired enough to create the next great breakthrough in clean energy,” said Robert Blue, president of Dominion Virginia Power.

Aidan Keverline, a senior at Western Branch, took a keen interest in the project. While taking an environmental science class in the fall, he said he realized the importance of clean energy.

“It is here at the state and local level where we must make the right choices for our future, and I’m proud to be a member of a community that seems to be doing just that,” Keverline said.

Keverline said he’s not disappointed that the project became a reality just a short time before he heads on to college.

“I’m excited for everybody who is going to be coming here,” he said.

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