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District expects long-term savings from solar panels

Wednesday, July 13, 2011 08:26 AM
ThisWeek Community Newspapers

Sunny skies are just what Jerome High School's newest addition need, especially now.

As part of Dublin City Schools' House Bill 264 energy-conservation work, solar panels were installed on the Jerome roof over summer.

The district began adding equipment that conserves energy after it received a $5.7-million interest-free loan from the state via H.B. 264 last year. Additions around the district include energy-efficient lights and boilers.

The district expects energy savings from all of the measures to make up for the $5.7-million loan over 15 years.

The $60,000 solar-panel project at Jerome High School is expected to save money by using less natural gas.

"It will supplement hot water," said Annette Morud, district director of business affairs. "We looked at solar panels, a big array of solar panels on the roof that would do solar electricity, but the payback was too long."

A large array of solar panels would not pay itself back within the 15 years required by H.B. 264, so the district went with solar panels that will help heat the school's water, Morud said.

"The payback on hot water was 10 years," she said. "That's why we chose that one for solar (power)."

The installation took about three weeks and, according to Morud, will not heat all of the water in the school.

"I don't think it will ever heat all of the school's water. We really only have sun a relatively short part of the day, and we're still using water into the evening," she said.

The district expects to see a savings of about $5,000 per year ($75,000 over 15 years).

Eric Kuns, representing Bruner Performance Solutions Group, is working on the energy conservation project and said the school would see more savings the more it is used.

"It's a relatively inexpensive plan," he said. "The savings will go up depending upon how much we used the school. This summer the school is being used for summer school, so that helps. The savings fluctuate depending on how much it's used."

The solar panels also will be used for education. Kuns said he already has worked with Jerome science teacher Chuck Crawford and a few of his students.

"Chuck brought in students, and two of the students were tasked with a tech review of the overall plan," Kuns said. "Two were tasked with educational aspects. Two students were tasked with (public relations). We're actually doing a ribbon-cutting ceremony sometime in September to let people know what we're doing and the impact it will have on the school. There are a lot of things you can do with solar power."

Jerome students won't be the only ones learning from the energy-conservation projects around the district, though.

According to Morud, the district will have a system in place "for students in all buildings to monitor the real-time savings. We're a little bit away from that, but students will be able to see what the usage is and what savings we're getting from year to year or month to month in each building."