by Anna Masciandaro
If you’ve been hanging around WHS lately, you may have noticed a string of yellow flags placed along the edge of the roof. The flags and recent increase in construction activity are all part of the district’s new solar panel initiative. Solar panels are being installed at WHS and at Tamaques and Wilson elementary schools, as well as at Roosevelt and Edison intermediate schools. The other public schools in the district weren’t eligible for panels because they lacked sufficient roof area, said Dana Sullivan, the district’s school business administrator.
Sullivan said the panels will generate about 1.2 million kilowatt-hours (kWh) of electricity a year for the school district, which is about 10 to 12 percent of the overall amount of electricity consumed by each of the buildings.
The new additions to the school are part of a Power Purchase Agreement, in which a company pays for and installs solar panels, then sells electricity back to the customer at a reduced rate. Sullivan said the solar panels will not cost the district anything, but will need to be replaced in about 15 years.
Sullivan added that at the time the project was approved by the BOE in December 2015, the district was paying about $0.15 per kWh. Now, the district will be paying about $0.059 per kWh for the electricity generated with the solar panels. Overall, the district will save about $112,000 per year in electric costs, Sullivan said.
Principal Dr. Derrick Nelson said he hopes the saved money will go to wherever it will be most helpful to the students.
Junior Linzy Rosen, president of the Global Environmentalists’ Club, said, “I think it’s about time that WHS is becoming more sustainable with the use of solar.”
George Duthie, the principal at Fraytak Veisz Hopkins Duthie P.C. and the design professional for the project, said the major obstacle for the project was replacing the roofs, which was done in 2014 as a separate project. He said the panels are expected to be completed by August.