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Local School District Looking to Tap Solar Power

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K-Solar Program Designed to Help Save Money and Energy

By Daniel Meyer

As one of the fastest growing sources for energy, solar power usage is gaining popularity throughout the country. Thanks to a state program, local school districts have an opportunity to use that type of energy to help reduce costs while at the same time help protect the environment by reducing the school’s carbon footprint.

K-Solar is a joint project of the New York Power Authority and New York State Energy Research and Development Authority that provides school districts in the state access to tools and expertise needed to help bring solar energy to their facilities in an effort to achieve the goal of reducing overall energy costs.

Locally, the Ellicottville Central School District is taking advantage of the no-cost and no-obligation offer by NYPA and NYSERDA as they analyze whether or not K-Solar is a good fit for their facilities, something that should please taxpayers who look to the elected board of education members and appointed school district administrators to constantly look at ways to further reduce energy costs and save money.

As part of the K-Solar program, NYPA’s free energy advisor service provides interested school districts various features, including:

* Estimated reports on potential savings for all future energy bills

* Detailed explanations on how public schools can become eligible to receive federal tax credits that will lower the overall cost of a solar installation project

* Specific language on how school districts can work with the New York State Education Department to streamline the permit process to install solar panels

* Creating what would be known as a “purchasing coalition” of school systems throughout the state, providing each participating district with the benefit of volume pricing.

District officials in Ellicottville are analyzing the possibility of increasing the use of renewable energy at their schools in an effort to protect the environment while also modernizing their electrical grid.

“We saw this opportunity so I immediately followed up on it, because I view it as a chance to benefit, a potential way to save money and have a long-term impact that could result in saving energy and money year after year,” said Ellicottville Central School District Superintendent Mark Ward. “Solar energy represents an opportunity to save some money for our taxpayers so we plan to continue to explore all of our options.”

While Ellicottville is still studying the project, NYPA officials remain hopeful the eventual installation of solar panels that would be owned, operated and maintained by a solar developer would lead to solar energy being produced for the school at a contracted price.

“As part of the K-Solar program, the New York Power Authority is offering a no-cost, no obligation energy assessment to all New York school districts to help them determine if solar energy is a suitable and cost-effective way to meet their energy needs,” said Connie Cullen, a spokesperson for the New York Power Authority. “The only costs to the schools, if they decide to participate in the program, will be for the clean electricity generated by the installed solar panels.”

There is no limit to the amount of installations a school district can have on the various buildings they operate as long as each structure meets the specific criteria.

“Solar power is a clean energy source that is good for the environment because it reduces emissions for cleaner air,” said Cullen.

The concept of increasing the use of renewable energy within the district’s school buildings to help protect the environment and bring the school system’s electrical grid up to speed with today’s modernized technology is something that has Ward thinking the use of solar energy may be a realistic and affordable option for ECS.

“We’re excited because with our new gym and multi-purpose room we will be using more energy, so if we can look into trying to save money and reduce the amount of energy we will be using, we believe that is something that the community would like to see us explore,” said Ward.

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