ONSLOW COUNTY, N.C. (WNCT)–Queens Creek Elementary was awarded the title of NC Green School of Excellence, the highest honor in the state, for its commitment to a curriculum focusing on a green theme.

The latest part of the curriculum, a solar array, was unveiled on Monday. The solar PV system includes 12 SunPower solar modules provided by NC GreenPower.

Three Queens Creek students, now in high school, had the idea, called Our Green Dream six years ago.

“To come back and be able to see how we really affected the school even though we didn’t think anything happened at the time is really cool,” Erica Miller, co-creator, said.

The $40,000 system will provide power to the school’s cafeteria as well as to charge students’ laptops.

Best of all, it will enhance STEM education across the county. Students will use provided software to analyze data taken from the monitoring system.

“Our children will be able to use all of this to do real-time math authentically,” Principal Elaine Justice said. “Once you use something, you learn it, and you remember it.”

The monitoring system provides solar irradiation, ambient air temperature, module temperature and other data that students will compare between seasons, Justice said.

Students, teachers, and the community raised the funds needed to install the system.

“It’s a good feeling because we accomplished something that was hard to reach, and it’s just a good goal,” fifth-grader Delaney Horton said.

It took about one year to apply for the grant and get it installed. The system will have a potential cost savings of $657 annually. The project will feed green power back to the electric grid for Jones-Onslow EMC.

This is the 8th school in the state with solar panels provided by NC GreenPower. Five more will be installed by 2018.

Funding was also provided in part by the State Employees’ Credit Union. The SECU Foundation awarded a $10,000 matching challenge grant that allowed the school to increase from a 3 kW to a 5 kW system. Other donors include Jones-Onslow EMC and Cypress Creek Renewables, as well as local Swansboro businesses.