Illuminating young minds: Virginia parks department opens solar education facility
The Lynchburg Parks & Recreation Department in Virginia has commissioned a 3.2 kW SolarEdge rooftop solar installation at a popular nature center in Ivy Creek Park. As part of an educational initiative designed to foster early interest in renewable energy amongst local children, the project is one of the first to be funded by Lynchburg City Council’s Sustainability Fund, established in 2022 to promote renewable energy adoption amongst local families and businesses.
The nature center is housed in a historic wooden cabin that has been a focal part of community life in Lynchburg for decades. The energy produced will be used to offset a percentage of the cabin’s energy use and reduce carbon emissions. Inside the cabin, an interactive, wall-mounted exhibit provides a ‘hands-on’ way for children to discover how solar energy is harnessed and converted into clean, renewable power for their homes.
The rooftop install and the interactive exhibit were designed, installed and will be maintained by local installer, Earth Right Mid-Atlantic. The SolarEdge solution, which includes a Home Hub inverter and Power Optimizers, was chosen to provide the reliability and safety required for such a popular and high-profile attraction.
“Solar adoption in Lynchburg is lower than in surrounding areas and we believe this is partially due to a lack of knowledge and awareness of the solutions available,” said Corey Argentino, CEO, Earth Right Mid-Atlantic. “So while the main idea behind the facility is to capture the imaginations of local children, we’re finding it is their parents who tend to ask most of the questions.”
Inside the cabin, the interactive exhibit displays the key components from the rooftop system — including the solar panels and SolarEdge inverter and Power Optimizers — alongside an explanation of how each one helps to convert sunshine into useable energy. Moving lights show how electricity flows through each component before reaching the end-user, in this case a model of Lynchburg City Hall which lights up when visitors turn on the power switch.
Alongside the exhibit, a screen displays in real-time how much solar energy the rooftop system is producing and the carbon offset. To make this information more compelling for children, the carbon reduction is shown equivalent to the number of trees planted and the number of smart phones charged.
“The solar exhibit has been designed to be as engaging for children as possible, and we plan to introduce more interactive elements very soon,” Argentino said. “We are also planning to extend the project online by incorporating live production data from the mySolarEdge app on the Lynchburg Parks & Recreation Department’s website. In this way we hope to engage even more children and their families on the important topic of sustainability.”
The number of visitors to the nature center has increased steadily since the solar exhibit was opened, especially during term time and on “Solar Saturdays,” Argentino said. The SolarEdge system helps ensure that the rooftop array remains up-and-running at all times, while also providing peace of mind through advanced safety features.
“While safety is a top priority with every project we install, for a busy site such as this it becomes even more critical,” Argentino said. “SolarEdge’s enhanced safety features, such as its SafeDC and built-in rapid shutdown functionality, and arc fault detection, were a huge part of our decision to choose a SolarEdge system for this project.”
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