F-M Schools getting ‘green’ improvements

Brad Galton, of O’Connell Electric, installs solar panels on the roof of Wellwood Middle School.

Brad Galton, of O’Connell Electric, installs solar panels on the roof of Wellwood Middle School.

— Fayetteville-Manlius Schools has begun work on four “green” improvement projects that school officials say will save the district $24,892 annually in energy expenses.

The projects involve installing 221 50-kW photovoltaic panels on the roofs of both F-M High School and Wellwood Middle School; a solar water heater on the roof of Mott Road Elementary School; and a waste oil heater at the district’s bus garage.

“We are very excited about these projects,” said Michael Vespi, assistant superintendent for business services. “As we plan improvements to our district facilities, we have been looking for opportunities to use environmentally friendly practices and technologies. These projects will help preserve the environment, save taxpayer dollars and have educational benefits for our students.”

This is the third time the district has entered an energy performance contract, but the first time student learning will be incorporated. Vespi said he’s excited about the energy and cost savings, “but that’s secondary to the fact that we’re finally doing a project that our kids can get excited about, involved in and learn from.”

The energy performance contract requires the district to monitor the new equipment and verify that energy savings are being achieved. Vespi said students will take part in this process and have access to the necessary software, which will allow them to learn about and monitor solar energy production.

The F-M Board of Education signed an energy performance contract with Johnson Controls Inc., the company installing the improvements, in July 2010. Work on the solar water heater and photovoltaic panels began in June and is expected to be completed by the end of September. The waste oil heater will be installed when the new bus garage is constructed.

The amount of energy the projects save in one year is equivalent to cutting carbon dioxide emissions by 791,212 pounds, powering 46 homes or taking 78 passenger cars off the road, according to Johnson Controls.

For the project, the district was awarded $535,500 in grants by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority. Factoring in state building aid, the $878,845 project will cost the district $111,844 — or $7,456 annually over 15 years.

That cost will be offset by a guaranteed annual average energy savings of $24,892, so the project will save district taxpayers on average $17,435 each year during those 15 years, Vespi said.

Officials expect the project to pay for itself in four-and-a-half years.

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