Green Power Switch News
ELECTRICITY FROM 93 MILLION MILES AWAY
The sun is an incredibly powerful source of energy. That’s why TVA is using photovoltaic (PV) panel arrays to transform solar energy into usable electricity. When rays of sunshine strike a solar panel, they give some of the electrons inside it more energy, a process that creates an electrical current. PV systems use semiconductor cells, or modules, that convert sunlight directly into electricity. The systems also contain additional equipment like inverters, which change direct current to alternating current (the type that we use in our homes).
Solar energy constitutes a small but important part of Green Power Switch’s energy resources. TVA selected solar installation sites providing high visibility and opportunities for public education. These included hightraffic facilities like visitor centers, museums, and schools. Of course, the sites also had to meet the necessary physical criteria: a southern orientation, good exposure to the sun, and the appropriate amount of structural support and space for placement of the PV panels.
Ijams Nature Center is one of 16 solar host sites for the Green Power Switch Program. The 80- acre park and environmental education center is located on the south shore of Fort Loudoun Reservoir in Knoxville, Tennessee. The center’s woods, trails and gardens make it a perfect place for people of all ages to learn about the environment and simply enjoy nature.
According to Todd Witcher, School and Youth Programs Manager at Ijams, “Having the solar site is a great opportunity for education, which is what we are all about here at Ijams. The solar panels are something we love having here — they get people talking and asking questions about solar energy. We teach a series of adult classes titled ‘Living Clean and Green’ that teaches participants how to live more earth friendly—the solar panels are incorporated into these classes. Sustainability and solar energy are abstract terms to most people, so having the panels on site enables education to be hands on and real.”
An interactive kiosk in the Visitor Center shows how much electricity the site produces and explains to students and visitors how solar energy works. Since becoming operational on September 15th, 2000, the solar arrays have generated 102,788 kWh of electricity (data through January 2007).