The lineup of solar panels peering from near the southwest edge of the rooftop of Rockford Lutheran High School is not just another solar setup in town, it’s the symbol of a unique collaboration. This collaboration includes the high school, an electric utility company, a department of the State of Illinois, an environmental foundation, a community college, two retired professors from Northern Illinois University (NIU), Nextek Power Systems’s cutting-edge technology in renewable energy, and a local energy contractor.

The solar panel array provides about 1.0 kilowatts (kW) of electricity for 18 fluorescent fixtures in the Physics classroom of instructor Trey Fisk. When the sun is blocked by clouds, the supplemental electricity is provided by ComEd.

ComEd initiated the solar PV program, now in its fifth year, as the ComEd Solar Schools initiative. The program was created to raise student awareness of renewable energy resources. ComEd’s solar efforts, including more than 50 solar PV installations in Chicago alone, rank Illinois fifth in the U.S. in installed PV capacity.

Bob Lindstrom, Regional Energy Program grant manager for the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO), provided Principal Donald Kortze with initial consultation and recommendations. Then Bob connected Mr. Kortze with Len Salvig, owner of Hybrid Renewables, Inc. for management and completion of the project. The Rock Valley College, Business and Professional Institute, has supported the DCEO by providing office space and coordination of local efforts in energy efficiency.

The Illinois Clean Energy Foundation (ICECF) provided the $10,000 grant for the project. ICECF is developing a web site that will highlight the real-time generation data of each of the solar power systems in the program. Teachers will be able to use this real-time data in lessons on renewable energy in science, math, physics, and other related disciplines.

Drs. Bob and Sonia Vogl of Oregon, Illinois, authored the Solar Energy Education Kit (SEEK) written program that will be used in the Physics class taught by Trey Fisk, Physics Instructor. Nextek Power Systems developed the highly efficient electric power gateway that takes the sun-generated electricity and pipes it to the fluorescent fixtures in the classroom. The company was recently recognized by the body that sets the standard for Direct Current (DC) inter­connection with the power grid, called the California Rule 21 Work Group, as the only CEC-approved energy interfacing appliance that does not require a Utility Interconnection Agreement.

Hybrid Renewables, Inc. installed and verified the operation of the system. Hybrid Renewables is an electrical contractor and represents other renewable energy products for wind generators, swimming pool heaters, and SunWize Technologies, the largest distributor of products for renewable energy in the U.S.