Schools designated as shelters get solar energy system for backup power

System can withstand 150+ mph winds

BOCA RATON, Fla. - 4,000 solar panels will be installed at 100 schools to harness the sun, and offer alternative power schools that are designated as hurricane shelters.

A Boca Raton-based company is installing the system so if the power goes out during an emergency or hurricane, the solar system kicks in.

The system is enough to power lighting and electrical outlets, or appliances like a small refrigerator. Engineers say the panels are built to withstand 150-mile per hour winds.

 "There's a lot of trickle-down effect really helping to stimulate the local economy," says Bert Lichen, with VB Engineering, the company installing the systems.

There's an added plus - all of the power can be used all the time. When there isn't an emergency, schools can use it to help offset their electricity bill.

"Schools are struggling to find money here and there, anything helps and this is something they're getting for free," says Kimandy Lawrence, an engineer on the project.

The solar panels will be installed at Atlantic Community High School, Palm Beach Gardens High School and West Gate Elementary School in Palm Beach County, along with C.A. Moore and Bayshore Elementary Schools in Saint Lucie County.

The project is funded through a $10 million federal grant for the Florida Solar Energy Center. VB Engineering hopes it puts the positives of solar energy back in the spotlight.

"We live in the sunshine state and unfortunately we're way behind a lot of other states like California and New Jersey when it comes to solar energy installed," says Lichen.

Planners estimate it will take 8 months to complete. In the process, the company will educate students about the benefits of solar energy.
 

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