The Hebrew Academy in Huntington Beach looked to the sun to find the inspiration for melding technology, environmental interests and education. It is going all solar.
"As far as I know, we have just become the only school in the state of California that's completely solar-powered," said Principal Megan Carlson. "We're working hard to get the word out. A lot of progressive things are happening here at the academy, and the solar project has taken our school to a new level."
The school, set on 11 acres off Willow Lane, held a ribbon-cutting ceremony May 22 for the project, which is expected to keep the school running solely on the power of the sun. The school's administrators, teachers, parents and students attended the event, during which a number of local officials spoke, including Huntington Beach Mayor Matthew Harper, Seal Beach Mayor Ellery Deaton and Westminster Mayor Tri Ta.
Businessman Allen Alevy of Long Beach also spoke. His funding enabled the 45-year-old private school to pay for the construction of the $625,000 project, which began in February and was completed in April.
The change is expected to save The Hebrew Academy an estimated $1 million in energy costs over the next 20 years.
"I have always believed that by doing the right thing at the right time and in the right place, your dreams will be answered," Alevy said at the ribbon-cutting. "My children, my grandchildren and my great-grandchildren have attended this school. Clearly, the academic program is changing under the guidance of Dr. Carlson. The plan is to offer classes that only the best schools can offer. We are making a difference."
Carlson said Alevy has pledged an additional $2.5 million to fund other cutting-edge programs for the academy.
"Allen Alevy puts his money and his time where his mouth is," Carlson said. "He likes to do things that are progressive. With his support, we've been working for the last year and a half to train our teachers to integrate technology into their instruction. My vision is to have technology become a regular part of our students' learning, as opposed to treating technology as a separate, stand-alone piece."
Carlson said the solar project is an important step in bringing technology and education together at the academy.
"Our staff is thrilled because our state-of-the-art solar program fits right into our curriculum of environmental studies and preserving our Earth," she said.
The principal said the project allows The Hebrew Academy to be an educational platform, giving the students an array of new learning opportunities.
The Hebrew Academy is using photovoltaic panels, which generate electricity directly from solar radiation.
As of 2013, about 180 California public schools had installed solar panels, according to the Solar Energy Industries Assn., to meet part — though not all — of their energy needs.
"The fact that our school is completely solar-powered, and that the project is fully paid for, is such a blessing," Carlson said. "Our students are part of a learning community that has high intellectual and moral standards, and we want our young scholars to contribute to their families and their communities."