Two Fort Huachuca Accommodation Schools completed solar power systems in November. To mark the occasion, Colonel Smith Middle School hosted a ribbon cutting ceremony Dec. 19.

The solar power system was key in completing the school's net-zero achievement. Randy Garland, school district transportation and maintenance manager, explained its completion as "the final piece of the puzzle." During the three-month project, completed in partnership with the Solon Corporation and Kenyon Energy, workers installed solar panels on CSMS's roof, running track bleachers and parking lot.

Crews also placed panels on the rooftop of Colonel Johnston Elementary School. General Myer Elementary School was not included in the project due to insufficient roof space for panel installation.

"Basically, the solar panels of the solar [power] system will produce energy that the schools will use at a reduced rate of electricity per kilowatt hours," said Luke Alm, Solon Corporation business development manager.

He added that the schools will have a solar dashboard where people could observe benefits of using the system. Students, faculty and staff members will be able to see in real time how much energy the solar system is producing for the school, the energy savings and how much carbon dioxide is being off-set.

The installation was more than a construction project for the school district; it was an educational experience for students. According to Bonnie Austin, Fort Huachuca Accommodation Schools superintendent, Solon representatives took opportunities to teach students about solar energy. The company also donated solar modules, which make up a panel, for CSMS science classes to explore.

"This solar project was integral to make Colonel Smith Middle School net-zero, but it was also an appropriate and positive decision for the future of our students," Austin said.

Participating in the ribbon-cutting ceremony, students from the CSMS Cyber Patriots club flipped a giant symbolic "switch" connected to a solar panel which turned on a light bulb. The switch was designed and built by the school district's maintenance department. Once students flipped the switch, they took part in the official ribbon cutting with Austin and Alm.

Honored guests included Maj. Gen. Robert Ashley, commanding general, U.S. Army Intelligence Center of Excellence and Fort Huachuca; Command Sgt. Maj. Jeffery Fairley, USAICoE command sergeant major; Col. Dan McFarland, garrison commander, U.S. Army Garrison Fort Huachuca; and Dr. Rhonda Frueauff, former Fort Huachuca Accommodation Schools superintendent.