Facing the possibility of declining New York State school aid, officials at Whitney Point Central School District realized they needed to have a long term vision to satisfy their future energy needs. Working with Ashley McGraw the rural district in Broome County became the first school district to undertake a solar energy project.
Through Ashley McGraw’s Advanced Building Studio, they found photovoltaic power to be the best renewable energy choice for the school district. A combination of NYSERDA funding and the school’s SED aid ratio created a scenario in which the photovoltaic systems could be installed at a fraction of their normal cost. The Advanced Building Studio specializes in renewable energy as part of its goal of creating net zero energy buildings. Peter Larson, Principal of the Advanced Building Studio said, “School districts need to have a long-term vision. Users can see repayment on their investment in 20 years, which is well within the life-span of photovoltaic panels.”
Whitney Point Central School District installed three solar energy systems: Primary School, 30 kW; Whitney Point High School, 50kW; and Tioughnioga Riverside Academy, 33 kW. Combined, the systems are expected to produce over 125,000 kWh of solar electricity per year. Whitney Point officials estimate the district will save $22,000 – about 10 percent – on its annual electricity costs. Over the 25 year lifetime of the solar panels, the District will save an estimated $920,000.
In addition to the environmental and fiscal benefits, the solar energy system is also being integrated into classrooms at Whitney Point. Solar Liberty and the District are collaborating to develop a solar curriculum for students where classroom lessons will be combined with observations of the building’s actual solar electricity production across days and seasons. With school rooftops offering expansive space and opportunity for solar arrays, students become part of the renewable energy experience. “Solar energy systems at schools show students, faculty, and the community that solar power is a practical alternative to buying electricity from a utility company,” explains Adam Rizzo, President of Solar Liberty. “These students are the next generation of leaders ready to join New York’s green collar workforce.”
Additional scope included renovations to the auditorium and library.
Photos by John Griebsch Photography