Greenport scraps wind generators in favor of solar energy

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07/24/2013 11:12 AM |

KATHARINE SCHROEDER PHOTO |  Nearly 85 percent of the Greenport School District’s school will be covered with solar panels after a plan to build wind turbines was scrapped.

The Greenport School District has scrapped a project to install two wind turbines on school grounds but has decided to add more solar panels to the school’s roof instead.

The planned 98-foot monopole towers were to rise between the school’s ball fields along Moore’s Lane, enclosed by a fence. An underground trench was also planned to accommodate the cables that would transport the electricity into the school.

In addition to the wind project, the district’s green energy project originally included solar panel installation above the gym’s roof. The combination of wind and solar power was designed to meet all the buildings’ energy needs, which school officials said is about 250 kilowatts. Statewide Roofing recently put on the school’s new roof and will also install the solar panels.

Now that the district isn’t moving forward with wind, it substantially increased the number of solar panels, which will cover about 85 percent of the entire building’s roof.

School board president Heather Wolf said Tuesday the decision was made because solar technology has improved significantly since the district first drafted its green energy plan. In 2010, voters approved a $1.27 million bond for the energy project and a $7.48 million bond for capital improvements.

“It’s been three years since we’ve put the project together and solar technology has improved so much,” Ms. Wolf said. “It’s wonderful to get all the power generation — and more than what we had targeted — all on the roof, safely out of harm’s way.”

Ms. Wolf said the amount of space the wind project required also factored into the decision to go with more solar.

Marcus DaSilva, the school’s director of operations, said a 10-kilowatt solar tracking system near the tennis court was also pulled from the original plan due to space concerns. It’s been replaced with a digital kiosk inside the school designed to teach students about solar energy and how much more efficient it is than power generated from oil, coal and gas.

Mr. DaSilva said the solar installation and kiosk are expected to be completed by December.

“Our goal is to be off the grid,” he said. “We can’t store unused power, but it will go back to the village and from that point on it goes back to the people. The whole concept is fantastic.”

The school receives power from Greenport Village, which has a contract with the New York Power Authority to transmit hydropower generated in Niagara Falls.

In addition to the solar installation, other construction projects have been in the works since June 24, the day after graduation.

Mr. DaSilva said drainage pools have been installed underground near three sides of the building to mitigate roof runoff. A new playground is also expected to be completed by November.

The district’s science labs, which are nearly 40 years old, have been gutted and undergone asbestos abatement, Mr. DaSilva said. The refurbished chemistry and earth science/physics labs will sport new flooring, cabinetry, fume hoods and paint, as well as plumbing and electrical work.

New tables will be reconfigured into a round format to encourage a more collaborative learning environment, Ms. Wolf said.

Last year, the district completed massive capital improvement projects, including a new roof, windows and boilers. The school’s auditorium, which had fallen into disrepair, was also renovated and brought back to its original luster.

Ms. Wolf said she’s very pleased with the effort put forth by Mr. DaSilva and his crew and with how much work has been completed with minimum disruption to staff and students.

“It’s involved a lot of nights, weekends and intensive summers, but even when school was in session we still made progress,” she said. “Community members have randomly stopped me to say, ‘The school has never looked better.’ The total package is stunning and really exciting.”

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