Berkeley Heights Schools Go Green
Friday, October 5, 2012 • 6:58am
BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ - Berkeley Heights public schools are going green!
By the end of the month, William Woodruff Elementary School and Governor Livingston High School may look the same to the naked eye, but they will actually be more energy efficient with newly installed solar panels.
They were part of a larger effort in New Jersey called the Union County Renewable Energy Program. As of September 21, the program was 90% complete, with 28 of 31 facilities already installed and the last three buildings are scheduled to be opened in Roselle and Berkeley Heights by mid-October.
The Renewable Energy Program was started in 2011 by the Union County Improvement Authority through Power Purchase Agreements, which are common throughout the solar industry. In power purchase agreements, the property owners do not own the solar equipment. They pay for the electricity generated by the photovoltaic panels at a rate lower than the price of conventional electricity.
Superintendent Judith Rattner and School Business Administrator Donna Felezzola are excited about the solar panels being installed at the two schools.
“We’re hopeful that it’s going to save us money,” Rattner said. “It’s also a great opportunity for kids to learn about alternate sources of energy.”
Felezzola, who works with the Board of Education Facilities Committee, said they started planning this last September when they formed a committee to examine the possibility of putting solar panels in the schools. Some students, residents and members of the Environmental Committee were asked to assist in the process.
They then hired an architect, an engineer and a solar attorney. The committee prepared a proposal to go out for bids, but because it is very competitive the contract did not have to go to the lowest bidder, Felezzola explained. The architect said it was vital to maintain the integrity of the roofs, to know the amount of solar energy that it would generate and how it would look.
They had hoped to go out to bid in May, but their engineer, who had been working with the Union County Improvement Authority, suddenly told them they were nearing the end of the county's project but still had the capacity left to install solar panels in Berkeley Heights, which meant that they would not have to go out to bid and the panels would be installed at no cost to the district. Felezzola said she and the committee were thrilled upon hearing this amazing news.
“They approached us about doing two schools in Berkeley Heights,” she said. “The engineer was really the key.”
It didn’t cost anything for the school system because the county already had supplies and a purchase agreement, which made things quite easy, she said.
Rattner said the public and faculty support the solar panels because there was no taxpayer money spent, they will save money and the schools didn’t have to close to have them installed. This will not only benefit the town going into the future, but the students as well, the superintendent said.
Rattner added that as part of the project, educational kiosks will be installed in the two school buildings, as well.