Solar Powered Light Brightens City Park Pavilions (Marshall News Messenger 9/23/2011)

Let there be light Marshall High School student builds solar panels to bring night lighting to City Park

Hannah DeClerk hdeclerk@marshallnewsmessenger.com | Posted: Friday, September 23, 2011 8:00 am

Marshall residents can now enjoy the Marshall City Park after dark thanks to a 17-year-old student who decided to give back to the community by installing solar lighting in the pavilions.

Jewel Ross-Gatson, a senior at Marshall High School, worked for the majority of the summer to get local businesses on board to help her build solar panels in three pavilions at the Marshall City Park.

The project was designed in order to gain her Girl Scout Gold Award, the highest award a girl scout can receive.

“Choosing the project was extremely challenging because it had to be something I loved to do, I had to give 110 percent, it had to involve the community, and it had to be beneficial for me and them, and it had to use science, technology, engineering and mathematics,” said Miss Ross-Gatson.

She said her idea to install solar panels at the park came from a first-hand experience when she and a friend decided to visit the park close to nightfall, and could barely see in front of them.

“The pavilions are beautiful and safe to play around during the day,” she said. “But during the late hours when they get off, it is unsafe for the kids to see.”
She said the idea of installing solar panels was generated by her interest in preserving the planet.

“I wanted to come up with a project to preserve the world for future generations so they can have it like we have. I want us to have clean air for your children and grandchildren,” she said.

She explained solar energy, which is gaining rapid popularity, is created by the sun hitting a solar panel, which creates an energy charge that can trigger either DC or AC power.

She said the solar panels are charged throughout the day, and automatically switch on to produce an LED spotlight when it gets dark.

“The sun energy output is, one hour absorbed by the sun energy rays is equivalent to a yearly energy consumption by the entire planet,” she said. “It is just that strong. One of those that is not burning up. There is a lot of energy out there.”

She said after visiting with city commissioners, police officers, and park directors, she found out the lack of lighting was leading to the recent vandalism in the park.
“They said the security cameras there but there is not enough lighting to see anything,” she said.

She said after getting city officials on board, she needed to present her idea to local businesses in order to receive funding.
“Bill Marshall, owner of ELTEC traffic and solar productions, donated solar panels to us,” she said.

She said after receiving the panels about three weeks ago, she worked with a couple of volunteers to build the solar panels, which she said was not as easy as it seemed.
“There is more to building it than meets the eye,” she said.

She said Jim Putnam, ELTEC employee, walked her through the building process, even providing a diagram.

After the battery and the charging system she and volunteers set up the poles on the south side of each pavilion.

“I placed the poles for the solar panels on the south side of each one because the sun rises in the east and sets in the west, so we wanted the solar panels to get the most sun light,” she said. “And it was a very very heavy pole, and I could not have done it on my own.”

She said the poles blend perfectly to the side of the pavilion, and are not noticeable unless one looks for it.

“The first time I saw them lit up, I was very excited. The end results, I loved it, and it was bigger than I expected,” she said. “Now families can now stay longer, activities that are held you can stay longer at the park longer so now it is being used for its full potential.”