Many local school districts are dealing with tough financial times, but one district is working to cut costs by going green.
The South Colonie Central School District is hoping for sunny days ahead as it aims to become a lighthouse district for all of New York state.
"As a district we are looking at ways to control and reduce base budget costs the same way you try to control some of those costs at home," says South Colonie Superintendent John Buhner.
Buhner says the district is looking to specifically cut utility costs. That's why he is looking to solar power for savings. The district has submitted a proposal to the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) for a grant that would fund a total of 5,700 solar panels on 11 sites including school building rooftops and athletic fields.
"It would allow us to produce up to 1,700 kilowatts and save between $60,000 to $80,000 a year over a 20 year period," says Buhner.
If you do the math, the savings could climb to more than $1.5 million covering on average about 50 percent of the district's power needs.
Tim Carr is an account manager with Monolith Solar, the vendor working on South Colonie's power purchase agreement.
"We're able to install the system at absolutely no cost to the district or the district's tax payers," says Carr.
This means there is potential for more savings in the short and long term for the community as well as a chance to better use available funds for classroom needs and after school programs.
"I think it would make the state look good certainly make our community look good and maybe help us navigate some of the financial challenges we are looking at," says Buhner.
If the grant is approved, Buhner says he also wants to use this new green energy source as an educational tool for students installing monitors in every district building.
"When the kids and the public come in, they will see in real time how much power is being produced," explains Buhner. "They will also see the carbon offsets -- how many trees did this save, how many residential homes did we heat in this given day."
There is still a waiting process. Buhner says NYSERDA should be getting back with an answer about the grant in the next few months. If it is approved, the South Colonie Central School District hopes to begin the solar panel installation in the spring with the goal of having all 5,700 panels operational by next summer.
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