By Marissa Maier
Support for solar panels is gaining traction throughout the country. On March 1, New York State Governor David Paterson joined in these efforts by distributing $888,000 in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act monies to energy conservation projects in Sag Harbor, Southampton and East Hampton villages. According to Jennifer Mesiano, who helps draft grant applications for Sag Harbor, the village received $65,035 which will be used towards setting up a 10 kilowatt photovoltaic system at the firehouse on Brick Kiln Road.
Sag Harbor Village Mayor Brian Gilbride noted the panels will save the municipality $2,000 annually in electricity expenses. The firehouse was chosen as the location because its flat roof and position in the sun’s path provided the ideal conditions for solar panels. Overall, the project will cost around $81,000 with the village kicking in roughly $16,000.Gilbride said a date for the installation of the panels hasn’t been scheduled but he expects the project to be completed in the coming months.
“This may be the first of a couple panels,” remarked Gilbride.
In a press release, Mesiano pointed out that “$40 million in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) State Energy Program Round 2 funding has been awarded to New York municipalities, public schools, universities and colleges, hospitals and not-for-profit agencies to support 118 energy conservation projects.”
The Ross School benefited from this program and received a grant for over $200,000 from the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) for solar panels to be installed at the lower school campus in Bridgehampton. According to school officials, it currently costs roughly $12,000 annually to power the Barn Building, where the 49.2 kilowatt system will be installed. With the addition of these panels, the school believes they will be able to reduce these costs by 90 percent.
“There are a few reasons the Barn Building was chosen. It has a brand new roof that faces just 10 degrees off true south … There is minimal tree coverage, a concern in winter time solar production,” noted Ross School Facilities Director Jim Knowlan. “Finally, the limitations of the project size and production closely suited the actual yearly electric cost of the building.”
Knowlan expects the panels to be installed by early or late summer, depending on the NYSERDA’s approval process, and will be fully operational by the fall.
Stella Maris Regional School in Sag Harbor installed solar panels on the slanted south facing roof of its gym nearly three weeks ago. In addition to reducing the electric bill at the school, Stella Maris’ principal Jane FitzGerald Peters says the system has had an added benefit of being a welcome addition to the curriculum.
“The kids have already been studying electric use and they have a plan by the end of the school year to calculate how much of an impact [the panels have had] on the cost of electricity. The kids are getting excited and they are planning an energy fair for May 1,” said Peters. “This is an educational experience. They are learning about alternative energies that might be the thing that powers their home in the future.”