By Rick Laezman

Schoolchildren in New York State are learning about the benefits of solar power in their own school buildings. The New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERD) has launched a program to install new solar systems in 50 schools statewide.

Over 100 schools applied for funding under the School Power…Naturally Program. Through a competitive process that looked at school size, site suitability and other factors, 50 schools were selected representing a diverse demographic.

The program provides each school with $18,000, which pays for 90 percent of the cost of installation. AMERESCO, an energy services company that partnered with the NYSERD, is contributing another $500, and the schools only have to come up with $1,500 of their own money.

Solar Works Inc., a Vermont contractor that specializes in the design and installation of solar systems, will install the 2 kW systems in the schools. Schools also receive educational materials to help students’ learn about the benefits of solar power. All of Solar Works’ PV systems include data monitors that are easily linked to computers, so students can monitor electrical output on an instantaneous, daily and annual basis.

Richard Eidlin of Solar Works emphasizes that each of the schools in the New York program were also selected based on the positive impact the PV systems could have on the community at large.

"Schools are popular facilities for solar installations," he explains. "Educating kids is a great way to promote the benefits of solar power." EC