Magnet school to use solar energy system

New Haven solidified its commitment to education and renewable energy Monday, as city officials announced plans to bring the state’s largest solar energy system to an Elm City magnet school.

In a press conference, Superintendent of Schools Reginald Mayo, Mayor John DeStefano Jr. and the Connecticut Clean Energy Fund unveiled their plan to install photovoltaic panels at the Barnard Environmental Magnet School, currently under construction and slated to be completed by 2006.

Mayoral spokesman Derek Slap said the initiative is part of New Haven’s “20 percent by 2010″ campaign, aiming to draw 20 percent of the city’s energy come from renewable sources by the year 2010. He said the mayor’s support for the project is also a response to the large number of asthma cases plaguing the city.

Rick Ross, head of Westmount Management’s real estate division, which will be managing the project, said the solar energy system will stretch over an area of nearly 10,000 square feet with a capacity of 80 kilowatts — exceeding the sum of the capacities of all the currently existing solar commercial systems. He said the system will save about $308,000 in energy over its 30-year life.

“This is a very ambitious project, and we hope that other schools will consider it,” Ross said. “This type of development is not far-out as may people think. It is here today, in the mainstream marketplace.”

The project will cost the city around $700,000, Ross said. Half of the amount will be provided by the Connecticut Clean Energy Fund, which draws its resources from a surcharge on the city’s energy bill.

The panels will also serve an important educational purpose for New Haven students, Slapp said.

“The great thing about this is that the solar project really works with the curriculum of the school,” Slapp said. “The magnet school program has been really successful, and this is going to be an incredible school.”

Ross said detailed, real-time statistics on the amount of energy produced by the system will be available online. By tracking the amount of energy produced over time, he said, students from Barnard and other New Haven public schools will be able to understand how changes in the weather affect on solar energy production. Ross said classes may also focus on various aspects of the solar technology. New Haven Public Schools Communications Director Katherine Sullivan-DeCarlo said landscaping on the school’s roof will allow classes to take place around the panels.

Connecticut Clean Energy Fund representative Charlie Moret said there is a definite trend towards clean energy in New Haven. He said the fund recently installed three major solar energy systems for public use, while six more installations are in progress. Residential systems are also increasing rapidly, Moret said.

“As energy in the form of oil and petroleum continues to get more costly, it is certainly clear that solar energy will become more widespread,” he said.

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