Solar Panels or Hamster Wheels?

Lynne Kiesling

An elementary school in London is exceedingly chuffed about its GBP23,000 worth of solar panels to power 77 light fixtures. I agree with Londonist that they might get better value for money if they put the kids on hamster wheels and harness that energy!

3 thoughts on “Solar Panels or Hamster Wheels?

  1. Hopefully they made efficiency improvements first, so that the 77 lights provide the lumination services that 308 circa-1970s luminaires still found in many Illinois classrooms now do. With no real energy data here, it’s hard to tell exactly how much value they are getting.

    Considering the average adult human engine consumes about 2500kcal/day (120W) and can produce a steady 75W for a multiple hour period (gradeschoolers less), and taking into account average generator efficiencies, you’d need to buy more than 120 human hamster wheels to do the work of this PV system (granted that’s not very many!). And then there are those pesky child labor regulations.

    Hamster wheel fun aside, don’t forget to capture the educational value and load-profile smoothing value of the PV system. Have you seen the wonder in an 9-yr old’s face when they discover solar power in action?

    I’m all for PV on schools, with perhaps smarter shopping as lower installation costs are certainly possible for a system ~ this size. Better for students to see technology and energy production in action every day rather than remaining ignorant of what’s happening “behind the curtain”. Perhaps smaller educational systems are better suited if it’s not in conjunction with integrated design in construction or renovation where PV makes more sense.

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