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Private school in DeWitt plugs into solar power to meet a quarter of its energy needs

DeWitt, NY — Manlius Pebble Hill School in DeWitt has just completed installing 117 solar energy panels atop one of its classroom buildings, a move expected to save the school $6,000 to $9,000 in energy costs every year.

MPH is one of three solar panel installation projects in the town of DeWitt, which recently passed legislation to regulate renewable energy such as this. Le Moyne College and Holy Cross Church also are installing solar panels.

The MPH project is a 25-kilowatt system and will produce about one-quarter of the school’s energy needs. The 21-kilowatt solar panel system at Le Moyne is for the roof on Foery Hall, a four-story residence hall on campus. Installation of the panels at MPH was completed late this week.

“We are thrilled to have this done, because we’ve been working on this for years,” said Jane Charlamb, chairman of MPH’s Green Committee. “We had so many obstacles to overcome in the beginning, such as funding, getting a grant and needing special legislation to allow us to move ahead. It’s really exciting to see the panels actually on the roof.”

DeWitt recently approved a new Energy Conversion Systems law that permits and regulates alternative energy, such as solar panels on rooftops. The solar energy provisions of the law are complete, Town Supervisor Ed Michalenko said, but the wind power portion is still pending.

The solar panels, which cost about $170,000, are mounted on the Bradlee classroom building on the MPH campus. Solar Liberty, the company installing the solar panels, donated the $45,000 installation, and the rest of the cost is being paid for with a $125,000 grant from the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority.

MPH spokeswoman Susan Gullo said the Bradlee building roof was tested to ensure it would support the panels, which are weighted down with large cinder blocks.

The solar panels create energy that will offset what the school uses. Gullo said eventually the school will try to compute the amount of electricity the panels create compared with how much energy the school uses.

The MPH Green Committee plans a schoolwide event in the fall to celebrate the solar panels and what they mean to the school. Students also will learn about solar energy in science, math, engineering, environmental classes and more.