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Here Comes the Sun: Solar Panels to Power Up John Jay Campus

The panels are likely to be installed by October at the middle and high schools, and fully operational by January 2011.

As early as 2005, the Katonah Lewisboro school district incorporated sustainability into its strategic plan, with gardens, greenhouses and nature trails sprouting up in recent years.

With the coming installation of 218 solar panels each at the middle and high schools, the district adds another dimension to its practices of going green—realizing an estimated $35,000 in energy savings produced by solar energy.

At its Aug. 26 board meeting, school board members voted to award the bid to install the panels to Solar Liberty, an energy company based in Western New York. The $462,024 project is to be funded through a $500,000 grant received from the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority last spring for the solar photovoltaic systems.

Each school will receive a 50 kilowatt system—at the high school, the array of panels will be placed on the roof of the gallery and Building 2;panels at the middle school will surface the roof of the library and theater.

Janet Harckham, school board member and sustainability committee member, was thrilled to see the project move forward.

"We applied twice for these grants and after being denied, were successful in the second round," she said. "We'll save money, but we'll also use the panels in the education of our students."

Additional state grant funds are to be used to create educational areas for students to learn about alternative energy. The panels, which are 39 inches by 64 inches, will be connected to a display for students to see the amount of energy created by the panels, said Tom Psomas, director of operations and maintenance.

"The meter will show students how much power they're generating," he said. "Students will be able to see the difference in energy on a sunny day and a cloudy day."

Psomas didn't forsee any disruptions from the construction. After the installation, wiring work will be done before they will be fully operational. Inclement weather shouldn't affect the project's progress, he said.

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