NEW PORT RICHEY — Richard Komp has lived "off the grid" for 22 years.
He relies on rainwater, sunshine, shade and other forces of nature to run his Maine home overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. In fact, Komp has spent decades visiting Third World nations teaching communities how to rein in the sun and the wind to create electricity.
On Thursday, the internationally known expert brought his wealth of knowledge to Marchman Technical Education Center, where he gave students in the electricity, construction and related fields a primer on solar power for the Great American Teach-In.
The Teach-In drew hundreds of volunteers to Pasco County schools to talk about their careers and hobbies. They offered students advice about how to achieve their goals and succeed in future jobs. Visitors included athletes and police officers, lawyers and prop artists.
During his visit, Komp didn't just offer words about his job.
He also provided some technical information and gave students an opportunity to solder together small solar energy cells.
"If you're going to be designing and building buildings, these are things you have to know," said Komp, who is president of the Maine Solar Energy Association. "Where is the sun going to be? Where do the prevailing winds come from?"
Housing is to protect people from the elements, he said, but people also can use the elements if they understand them.
Teachers and civic leaders said they hope to see students use the information in real-world applications.
"Perhaps the students will come to Habitat and take these practical ideas and put them to use for models in the community," said Sergei Kostin of West Pasco Habitat for Humanity, whose group cosponsored Komp's visit. He said the organization hopes to strengthen its ties with Marchman and its students.
Teacher Don Blake looked forward to his electricity students taking the renewable energy lessons on the road with a mobile energy lab that runs on solar power, sponsored by Progress Energy.
"Electricity was cheap for years and years," Blake said. "Now we're getting in trouble with it. We can't keep living this way. … I hope to get people to start looking at the situation."
Senior Dominic Anger said he found Komp's hourlong slide presentation informative and useful.
"I didn't know you can make all of those things cheap," Anger said. "I'd like to learn how to do it myself. … Maybe one day I can go to one of those countries and help out, too."
Senior Christopher Pendley was fascinated by the possibilities.
"The sheer fact of being able to generate electricity with sunlight or wind is just amazing," Pendley said.
And having the expert in the room made the lessons more real to senior Joseph Platt.
"I learn a lot when they talk," Platt said. "It's a lot easier than just reading a textbook and taking tests."
Komp said he hoped the students will remember his words, whether the fact that solar energy is viable or that the climate is changing. And from there, Komp said, he would like to see at least some of them get the needed education to do something about it.
"It would be interesting to see what they tell their parents," he said.
Jeffrey S. Solochek can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (813) 909-4614. For more education news, visit the Gradebook at tampabay.com/blogs/gradebook.