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Solar Project to Spark Students’ Studies, School’s Savings

April 14, 2010 - 3:26pm

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A solar installation on the roof of Drury High School in North Adams, Mass., and an integrated curriculum for students will be the result of $300,000 in Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grants, funded by the Recovery Act. North Adams and neighboring Clarksburg, which also sends students to the high school, pooled their $150,000 grants to contribute to the project.

“One of the beauties about that building is we have a rough idea of what it would take to completely power it through renewable energy, so we’re looking at this first installation of solar as something we can evolve down the road to let the school eventually create all of its own energy,” Mayor Richard Alcombright says.

City officials applied for the grants to install the 38-kW solar energy system last fall, shortly after taking advantage of a state-sponsored energy audit on the city’s buildings that determined the school as a good location for implementing renewable energy.

Ideally, the panels will be installed this summer. The roof has already been inspected to ensure it will properly support the panels and provide enough space to add on to the system in the future. The mayor says the city is also investigating its ability to install solar arrays at a nearby landfill that would contribute to the school’s available energy.

The city’s administrative officer, Jay Green, says North Adams is being as aggressive as possible with its energy initiatives. “We see this project as one step in the direction of becoming a truly green community,” he says.

Once installed, the school plans to include a page on its Web site dedicated to showcasing how much energy the panels are generating at any given time. Even this small group of initial panels is expected to reduce carbon emissions by 39,631 pounds annually and cut the school’s energy costs by a few percentage points.

“From my perspective, the solar energy derived from this is secondary to the educational experience it will provide at the high school,” Richard says. “This will be strongly built into the curriculum, and the science department is going to help students get hands-on experience with this technology.”

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