At the Dickinson College farm in Pennsylvania, students harvest more than crops. They also learn how to harvest energy from the sun.
Staff member Matt Steiman says that since 2007, the farm’s large solar array has fed electricity to the grid.
“But then beyond that, we saw ourselves as a solar education facility,” he says. “So working with college students and apprentices at the farm, we’ve installed several of our own solar project. … Some students would come and just help hang a few solar panels, but others really got involved in installations.”
For example, one physics major helped build what Steiman calls the “solar wheeler.” It’s an electric utility cart with solar panels on the roof. The panels feed power to the cart’s rechargeable batteries.
“We use that for day-to-day vegetable harvests and other odd jobs on the farm,” he says.
Solar panels are also used to charge an electric tractor, and farm apprentices live in off-grid, solar-powered yurts.
Steiman says that working with these systems helps to demystify them, and that’s beneficial, whether or not students decide to pursue careers in solar.
“We hope that they’ll be educated consumers when they become homeowners – you know five, 10 years down the road,” he says. “I think that helps to kind of prime the pump for the solar future.”
Reporting credit: ChavoBart Digital Media.