Solar system warms Keystone Science School yurt |

Solar system warms Keystone Science School yurt

summit daily news
Keystone, CO Colorado
Summit Daily/Robert AllenKeystone Science School staff with solar-thermal panels recently donated to warm the school's yurt.

KEYSTONE ” Kids using the yurt at Keystone Science School can keep warm and learn from a solar-thermal system recently donated by local businesses.

“It’s ultimately a really great teaching tool,” school director Ellen Reid said.

The system’s gauges and LCD monitors illustrate effects of the sun’s energy as it’s channeled into two large solar panels installed a few feet outside.

She said the yurt was built in October 2007 and piped for in-floor heating.

But it wasn’t until the past few months that Breckenridge businesses Sunshine Solar and Heating and Re-Align Technology combined forces to give the school a system worth about $10,000, including installation.

“It was kind of obvious it was missing something,” Re-Align partner Bob Kingston said of the yurt.

The two 4-foot-by-10-foot panels, “the biggest ones available,” circulate a water and glycol (to prevent freezing) mixture through copper tubes and into the yurt’s system, he said.

William Frew, Sunshine Solar and Heating owner, installed the system’s indoor gadgetry with students in mind ” so they’ll be able to take readings and see how the energy transfer occurs. He said the system will be able to direct heat to the ground through copper coils.

School staff hope to use the extra heat in the soil to produce more variety of fruits and vegetables in the nearby garden.

The solar setup will be “wonderful” for the garden and curriculum, camps director Joel Egbert said, adding that they’ll work well into this year’s “Summer of Sol” camp theme.

One afternoon last week, the tubes bringing liquid inside were reading 105 degrees. The ones circulating the liquid back outside read 49.

The outdoor temperature was in the high 30s.

“At this point, we’re taking every bit of sun we can and putting it into the heat,” Kingston said.

Frew said the foundation of about 15,000 pounds “acts as a huge radiator.” It will gradually radiate heat, with the temperature about 60 degrees on a cloudless day, he said.

Reid said it is expected the solar system will be complemented with the yurt’s infrared heaters a couple months each year.

The system already has begun to increase community awareness, she said, as folks on the school’s mailing list have been asking how the system works.

The solar-thermal setup is the school’s second use of solar energy. The dining hall is powered by a photovoltaic panel that still works to provide indoor lighting more than 10 years after its installation.

Robert Allen can be contacted at (970) 668-4628 or

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