GHS alum harnesses the sun to power Vocational Department

FINN WALL, Staff Writer

In the search for clean and renewable energy, the GHS vocational department has made a big step towards a greener future. Working with the Cazeault Solar and Home Company, the entire shop is installing a solar-based energy system that will power a fair amount of the entire building.

The system itself was designed by Sam Ziergiebel, a former GHS student who graduated in 2005. He has worked with Cazeault and its parent company for a number of years, doing design and engineering work for both. While he wasn’t a part of the vocational program himself, Mr. Ziergiebel has come back to lend his skills.

“It was custom designed by me,” Ziergiebel said. “I worked with Mr. Devlin a little bit on it, it was his idea. I had some ideas about how I could make it interactive, so the students could make it themselves. We decided that some of the shop students could make extension arms so they could change them to further angles. We tried to create it in a way so that it could last a long time and the students could continue to modify the angles to see what the power output would be.”

The system itself is made of a number of panels built onto the shop building. These will generate electricity from the sun that will then travel through a system of wires that go into the main power grid. An inverter built for the system inside of the shop converts it from direct current (DC) to alternating current (AC), which is the most common form of currency used in homes and buildings.

“Vertical wall mounts are very uncommon in the industry, but are an aspect of this system,” Ziergiebel said. “There is definitely nothing at this scale, and we had to stay very cost-effective in this building, so I had to create a system that was designed to be tilted on flat rooftops, and modified it so that it would be used on the wall. And then with that, we created a system that could use different leg lengths, which means it can be at different angles. and different angles will allow different amounts of power from the panels.”

But this entire project isn’t just Cazeault working—it was specifically designed so that the shop students will have the opportunity to help install, tinker with, and upkeep the whole system for the purposes of learning and teaching the vocational students in new methods of electricity.

“I did the design, and we got some panels and volunteered some of our time and labor, but the vocational students are installing it,” Ziergiebel said. “The carpentry students are helping with the framing and then the electrical students are doing the wiring.”

More than that, Sam and Cazeault also hope to encourage America’s next generation of technicians and electrical workers how to use green energy like solar and the benefits that come with a renewable form of energy. Installing solar panels, which consume a lot of energy, also helps in getting us closer to our national carbon-neutral target.

“Getting into alternative energy and the electrical field—I think it’s great for vocational kids to study electric because we really need electricians,” Ziergiebel said. “The world is changing, and everything is becoming more electric, and the future is electric. We need electricians, we need people to study alternative energy, we need people to study sustainability.”

GHS Electrical teacher Robert Devlin has been running the installation with the students and worked closely with Mr. Ziergiebel on the entire process. The system is currently being installed and has been for the past few weeks and will be complete sometime soon. 

“There is a bright future for anyone who wants to get involved with this,” Ziergiebel said. “I hope that this can be an educational tool to inspire students.”