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Solar Energy Systems Planned for School Buildings


March 27, 2007


WHITE PLAINS—Energy from the sun will be providing some of the electricity at two high schools and a middle school in New York State, thanks to a cooperative effort involving the New York Power Authority (NYPA), the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) and the municipal electric systems that serve the schools. 

Officials have announced that solar photovoltaic systems able to produce a total of 5.4 kilowatts (kw) of power are scheduled to be installed this summer at Pioneer High School in Yorkshire, Cattaraugus County; Lake Placid High School in Essex County; and Solvay Middle School in Onondaga County.  Pioneer High School receives electricity from the Arcade municipal system in neighboring Wyoming County, while the other two schools are served by their local systems.

In addition to supplying clean, economical power for each school, the units will give students a firsthand look at a renewable energy source and will complement classroom instruction.  They will also help to educate local residents as to the benefits and potential of solar power.

The projects will be funded in part through grants from NYSERDA as a result of the settlement of a lawsuit by the New York State Office of the Attorney General against the Ohio Edison Co. last year.  The Independent Energy Efficiency Program (IEEP), established by more than 20 of the state’s municipal systems to carry out energy efficiency programs in their service areas, will coordinate the work.

“The Power Authority is pleased to be part of this initiative, which will meet important energy, environmental and educational needs,” said Timothy S. Carey, NYPA’s president and chief executive officer.  “Increased use of solar power can help to reduce our dependence on foreign oil and the threat of global warming.  Learning about this and other energy options will enable today’s students to contribute to informed decision-making in the future.”

NYSERDA President Peter R. Smith said, “The School Power…NaturallySM program has been a successful tool in educating New Yorkers about energy, particularly the potential of solar energy to power our homes, schools and workplaces.  Partnering with NYPA, we’re able to expand this program into three schools where students and local residents can see firsthand the benefits of a solar energy system.”

“We welcome our partnership with NYSERDA and NYPA,” said William Barry, a representative of the IEEP, which was established in 2001.  “It will give added impetus to our efforts to bring economic, environmental and operational benefits to our municipal-system members by creating new opportunities to save energy and use clean new technologies.”

The Pioneer High School project, to be installed on the building’s roof, and the Solvay Middle School unit will each produce up to two kw.  The Lake Placid project’s capacity will be 1.4 kw.  While the projects will meet a small part of each school’s power needs, they will offer significant educational benefits.

The Power Authority will provide technical assistance and will oversee the projects to ensure that they meet the objectives of a landmark 2003 agreement that, among other provisions, called for increased cooperation between NYPA and the state’s 51 municipal electric systems and rural cooperatives in promoting energy efficiency.

NYPA meets the bulk of these systems’ electricity needs with low-cost hydroelectric power from its Niagara Power Project near Niagara Falls.

The three new projects are among the first to benefit from Power Authority approval last May of municipal system and cooperative participation in the Authority’s statewide Energy Services Program, covering energy efficiency and clean-energy initiatives.  They are also in line with NYPA’s Power to Schools program, which provides for the Authority to work with public and private schools throughout the state to advance energy efficiency and clean technologies. 

Funding of $32,400 is being negotiated with NYSERDA to help offset the overall project costs, expected to total about $82,000 for the three units.  Additional financing will come through the IEEP, with these costs recovered through a small charge (one-tenth of a cent per kilowatt hour) on municipal-system customer bills.

The schools will use curricular materials, lesson plans and background information that were developed under NYSERDA’s School Power…NaturallySM program and are available to all teachers at  These materials help students learn about solar energy in a creative, interactive manner, and each activity lists the New York State educational standards it addresses.  IEEP will provide the schools with instrumentation and software to permit ongoing computerized monitoring of each solar project’s performance.

Solar photovoltaic systems include panels of semiconductor solar cells that convert sunlight directly into electricity, as well as inverters that change the electricity from direct current to the alternating current required for conventional use.

   About NYPA:

 ■    NYPA uses no tax money or state credit.  It finances its operations through the sale of bonds and revenues earned in large part through sales of electricity.  ■    NYPA is a leader in promoting energy-efficiency, new energy technologies and electric transportation initiatives.  ■    It is the nation’s largest state-owned electric utility, with 18 generating facilities in various parts of the state and more than 1,400 circuit-miles of transmission lines.

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