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Saturday, 9 November 1996
By Sarah Tully Tapia
Arizona Daily Star

TUSD's environmental education campus will run almost entirely on solar energy, thanks to labor from an international class learning how to install the energy-efficient equipment.

The 25 adult students plan to finish installing a $24,000 photovoltaic system today at Cooper Environmental Science Campus, also known as Camp Cooper.

Each year, about 7,000 students, teachers and parents visit the Tucson Unified School District facility in the Tucson Mountains, primarily for field trips to learn about environment issues.

When the installation is completed, about 95 percent of the camp's electricity needs will be fueled by solar energy - excluding an electric stove, said Ed Eaton, who is instructing the class in solar technology.

As a result, the district expects to save about $1,200 in electricity bills next year, said Doug Crockett, TUSD's energy conservation manager.

The weeklong class is being conducted by Solar Energy International, a non-profit energy education organization based in Carbondale, Colo., Eaton, a former Tucson resident, said.

The organization has held weeklong classes at Camp Cooper annually since 1994. Students install solar equipment each year at the campus, which includes several cabins, and storage and office areas.

This week's students, from Bolivia, Nicaragua, Guatemala and the United States, include Peace Corps members, plumbers and builders.

Gema Interiano and her husband, Gustavo, traveled to Tucson for the class from their home in Guatemala City. The couple have a building business and plan to use solar energy in new homes, especially in rural areas.

Interiano said the majority of Guatemala's residents have no electricity in their homes.

``Also, we're doing something good for the environment, especially when you think of the future generation,'' she said.

Another participant, Robert Lewis, is a student at TUSD's alternative high school, Project MORE.

Lewis, 18, who secured a scholarship to attend the class, said his interest in solar energy has family ties.

His grandfather, Joe Blankinship, traveled around the country in the 1970s to exhibit a solar-run trailer. Blankinship also sponsored the first solar cook-off.

As to his future career, Lewis said, he wants to build clean cars and design other environmentally safe products.

``I'm probably the only kid in Tucson who wants to give up his car,'' he said.

The solar equipment being installed by the class was paid for through donations from the Arizona Department of Commerce's Energy Office, Tucson/Pima Metropolitan Energy Commission, Tucson Electric Power Co., Photocomm Inc. and the Graesser Foundation.

The "" American Solar Energy Society gives information and links to solar energy resources at its Web site.