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RCS schools flip the switch to solar

— Over the next 20 years, solar collectors sitting atop the four school buildings and bus garage are going to harness enough energy to clip at least $800,000 from Ravena-Coeymans-Selkirk's utility bills – all at no cost to taxpayers.

The collectors have been installed on the roofs at the high school, middle school, A.W. Becker Elementary School, Pieter B. Coeymans Elementary School and the bus garage. Estimates from US Light Energy, the contractor working with RCS to develop the Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) for the project, show that electric charges will drop by $807,076 (a 11.34 percent drop) over the next 20 years at a minimum.

“Solar energy is not the exotic, experimental power source it may have been 30 years ago,” said Interim Superintendent Dr. Alan McCartney. “It is now providing energy in a big way around the globe and here at RCS.”

McCarney noted that the sun’s rays pouring onto the Earth creates more than enough energy in one hour to satisfy global energy needs for an entire year. Solar energy is the technology used to harness the sun’s energy and make it useable. Solar energy produces no pollution and causes no harmful environmental effects.

McCartney also noted that schools across the nation spend more than $6 billion on energy costs every year.

“That is more than the amount that schools spend every year on text books and computer technology combined,” he said.

The RCS school district is doing their part to cut those energy costs. The system on RCS rooftops will provide a maximum of 0.79 Megawatts (790,000 watts) of solar power each day. A typical home uses about 20,000 watts of power each day, so the RCS system will produce enough power for nearly 40 homes each day.

Solar panels will also produce electricity even on cloudy days, usually around 10 to 20 percent of the amount produced on sunny days. National Grid will continue providing power to all of the buildings, so when the skies are cloudy, the current power grid will make up the gap between the solar-produced power and the needs of the buildings.

The estimated 20-year savings looks like this: high school, $180,059; middle school, $173,701; AW Becker, $179,302; PB Coeymans, $171,179; and bus garage, $102,835. The amount of savings is determined by the number of solar collectors on the particular roof. Because of the roof designs and elevations, each school has a different number of collectors resulting in a different savings figure.

McCartney also noted that in case a roof needs to be replaced or rehabilitated, the contractor will remove the solar panels and reinstall them at a small cost.

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