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Here’s why a solar canopy is being added to John Hopkins Middle School in St. Petersburg

The curriculum will soon include solar power-themed lessons.
A look at the solar panels being installed by Duke Energy in the parking lot at John Hopkins Middle School, 701 16th St S, on Friday, Sept. 24, 2021 in St. Petersburg.
A look at the solar panels being installed by Duke Energy in the parking lot at John Hopkins Middle School, 701 16th St S, on Friday, Sept. 24, 2021 in St. Petersburg. [ DIRK SHADD | Times ]
Published Sep. 24

ST. PETERSBURG – John Hopkins Middle School is getting more energized this year.

Duke Energy is installing a solar canopy at the school, which will provide power when the school serves as a special needs emergency shelter. The school is the only public K-12 school receiving a solar canopy in the state.

Three battery containers will be placed in the northeast corner of the campus at 701 16th St. S., explained Ana Gibbs, a Duke Energy Corporation spokesperson. Each is about 50 feet long and 10 feet wide.

This microgrid can provide 50 hours of support to the emergency shelter. There will be total of 3.5 megawatts available for use — one is from solar, and 2.5 megawatts is in the storage containers.

Educators hope the technology will help students get brighter, too.

Eric Whitton, with FC Solar, works to install the down spout on the gutter of the solar panels in the parking lot at John Hopkins Middle School, 701 16th St S, on Friday, Sept. 24, 2021 in St. Petersburg. Duke Energy is installing solar-powered batteries at the school.
Eric Whitton, with FC Solar, works to install the down spout on the gutter of the solar panels in the parking lot at John Hopkins Middle School, 701 16th St S, on Friday, Sept. 24, 2021 in St. Petersburg. Duke Energy is installing solar-powered batteries at the school. [ DIRK SHADD | Times ]

Instructors from core content areas including math, English language arts and science have been discussing how to incorporate solar power into their lessons, said Principal Carlmon Jones. The curriculum additions should come next semester.

Jones said the school is in the development stages of creating “interdisciplinary lessons about solar energy, renewable energy, and its impact.”

Social study classes may discuss the history and evolution of solar power. Math classes may practice metric conversions and evaluate the percentage of energy savings from solar compared to fossil fuels. Language arts classes could have students write argumentative and informative essays about different energy sources.

In addition, about 100 students are working with art instructor Krista Schilling to design artwork that will adorn the support pillars of the solar canopy.

Mike Lyman, with FC Solar, works to install the down spout on the gutter of the solar panels in the parking lot at John Hopkins Middle School, 701 16th St S, on Friday, Sept. 24, 2021 in St. Petersburg. Duke Energy is installing solar-powered batteries at the school.
Mike Lyman, with FC Solar, works to install the down spout on the gutter of the solar panels in the parking lot at John Hopkins Middle School, 701 16th St S, on Friday, Sept. 24, 2021 in St. Petersburg. Duke Energy is installing solar-powered batteries at the school. [ DIRK SHADD | Times ]

“I’m thankful that this is happening in the South St. Pete community, and that we’re giving artists from our community, young artists specifically, the chance to participate,” she said.

Staff members will select 23 designs to be printed on canvas and wrapped around the structure in a permanent art installation.

Schilling said John Hopkins student artists walk by SHINE murals in St. Petersburg every day on their way to school. “We are using this opportunity for students to become public artists for the first time,” she said.

A look at the solar panels being installed by Duke Energy in the parking lot at John Hopkins Middle School, 701 16th St S, on Friday, Sept. 24, 2021 in St. Petersburg.
A look at the solar panels being installed by Duke Energy in the parking lot at John Hopkins Middle School, 701 16th St S, on Friday, Sept. 24, 2021 in St. Petersburg. [ DIRK SHADD | Times ]