Schools see solar projects as way to educate, save
By Patricia Daddona PBN Staff Writer
Several schools are hoping to add rooftop solar projects to their campuses in order to cut back on annual energy costs – and incorporate an educational component at the same time.
The schools have won state renewable energy grants that, accompanied by a second round of state grants, are expected to lead to rooftop solar projects yielding annual energy savings – and the capacity to use data generated from the equipment as a teaching tool.
In late March, the R.I. Commerce Corporation approved $1.1 million in Renewable Energy Fund grants for 11 solar projects planned by businesses, housing developments and schools. The schools involved include Rocky Hill School and St. Rose of Lima School, both in Warwick; Meeting Street, Community Preparatory School and the Federal Hill House Holy Ghost School, all in Providence.
In addition, West Warwick has applied for solar rooftop projects for its field house and ice rink near its public high school and middle school, and the excess energy generated from those buildings would be used at those two nearby schools, said Town Manager Fred Presley.
“It’s something we’ve always wanted to do, but there have been a lot of other priorities,” said Presley, who learned about the grants when he explored the possibility of doing some rooftop maintenance. “But the time is right, right now,” he said.
According to data supplied by the R.I. Commerce Corporation, all the school and school-related projects won a total of approximately $772,573 and have an estimated potential generating capacity of 727 kilowatts.
Complementary grants from the R.I. Office of Energy Resources’ Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative program will make the programs a reality for most schools, said Chris Kearns, OER’s chief of program development, though in certain cases, some school officials indicated they may also need additional funds beyond that to completely pay for their projects.
Rocky Hill, Community Preparatory School, Meeting Street and West Warwick High School were all awarded additional state grants last week.
“The business community is being entrepreneurial, which involves piecing together the various funding sources,” Gold said.