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MPH first commercial enterprise to install solar panels in DeWitt

Manlius Pebble Hill last month began installing 117 solar energy panels atop one of its buildings.

The project, which has a market value of $170,000, is being funded through a $125,000 grant from the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority and Buffalo-based Solar Liberty’s $45,000 donation in installation costs.

The long-term process began three years ago when the school submitted its grant application, of which the late Headmaster of School Baxter Ball played an integral role.

“We recently received notice that we had been awarded the grant for the panels as well as the donation of the installation,” said Science Department Chair Sue Foster, noting the roughly 25-kilowatt system will offset close to $9,000 of the school’s annual energy bill.

This green implementation benefits the school not only fiscally, but also to its students in all grade levels. The panels and their functions will be infused into the science curriculum, though the discussion of and move toward green energy will take on a very different nature across these grades, Foster said. The project also presents opportunities for learning in areas ranging from math and engineering to business, economics and politics.

“It was interesting to some students that BP Solar, the manufacturer of the panels, is a global force in solar technologies,” Foster said. “When students saw the BP name and logo, many recalled the horrific events from the Gulf spill. This evolved into a conversation regarding environmental and green decision-making [and that] there are no pure decisions …

“Kids can see things as right or wrong; the more interesting discussions might be those involving grey,” Foster added. “It was powerful to discuss with kids how one might resolve, intellectually, the association with BP for this project when they had categorized BP as ‘bad.'”

Other green efforts that MPH is embracing include an existing campus greenhouse where students harvest herbs for their dining hall salad bar. Planting an edible outside garden is currently in the design phase, Foster said, and the school’s Green Committee, comprised of parents, faculty, students, administrators and board trustees, is studying the feasibility of composting the school’s vegetable waste.