AUGUSTA COUNTY, Va. (WHSV) — It all started with an idea from two students at Fort Defiance High School, but they never imagined it would become the project it did.
"I would have been happy with just a small solar tree in front of Fort Defiance High School," Elias Nafziger said.
Nafziger and Lizzie Hepler were seniors and co-student government presidents at FDHS when they proposed the idea of solar panels. They brought the idea to their principal, and then the superintendent, where it expanded. Now, there are solar panels at seven schools in Augusta County.
"it's crazy to see just a little idea form into a real-life, tangible thing that you can see," Hepler said, "and you can see working and you can have kids learning about it everyday."
The panels are already saving energy for Fort Defiance High School, Clymore Elementary School, and Cassel Elementary School. Dr. Eric Bond, Augusta County superintendent, says the student involvement sets the project apart.
"I think that's what makes our project in Augusta County so special, it was student led, to a certain degree," Dr. Bond said. "They had an idea as student leaders to try and improve their individual school."
Dr. Bond said it's also a great learning opportunity for the students.
"And it does tie in directly to our curriculum, so I think it enhances that for our students, so that's incredibly important for us, just the educational component."
Right now, this is the largest array of solar panels in a Virginia public school system. The panels will provide 30 percent of the energy the school uses, and is expected to save the school system $500,000 over the next 20 years.
The panels at Riverheads Elementary School, Riverheads High School, Wilson Elementary School and Wilson Middle School are expected to be finished and operating by the end of April.
You can see the live data from the solar panels at the three schools where panels are live online.