Solar Energy Projects

F-M launches major "green" projects


The Fayetteville-Manlius School District’s "green" initiatives are heating up. 


The district has launched four major environmentally friendly energy projects that involve installing:

·         221 50 kW photovoltaic panels on F-M High School’s roof;

·         221 50 kW photovoltaic panels on Wellwood Middle School’s roof;

·         A solar water heater on Mott Road Elementary School’s roof;

·         A waste oil heater at the district’s bus garage.


“We are very excited about these projects,” said Assistant Superintendent for Business Services Michael Vespi. “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.”


Where possible, the solar projects will be integrated with the curriculum, allowing students to learn about and monitor solar energy production. This fits in with the district’s 21st Century Learner Attributes, which call for students to become socially responsible citizens in part by understanding the importance of sustaining a healthy planet.


According to a preliminary assessment conducted by Johnson Controls, the amount of energy saved in one year by the projects is equivalent to:

·         Reducing carbon dioxide emissions by 791,212 pounds;

·         Powering 46 homes;

·         Taking 78 passenger cars off the road;

·         Planting 108 acres of trees.


The project is guaranteed to save the district on average $24,892 annually in energy expenses. New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) awarded the district grants totaling $535,500 for the work. Factoring in state building aid, the $878,845 total project will cost the district $111,844, which equates to $7,456 annually over 15 years. However, that cost will be offset by the guaranteed annual average energy savings of $24,892, so the project will actually save the district – and taxpayers – on average $17,435 each year during those 15 years, Mr. Vespi said.  

The F-M Board of Education in July 2010 approved the projects. The district entered into an energy performance contract with Johnson Controls, Inc., which will install the improvements. Work on the solar water heater and photovoltaic panels at the high school and Wellwood is expected to be completed by the end of September. The waste oil heater will be installed in the new bus garage when it is constructed.



How they work


Solar panels

Electrical energy is generated when the sun’s energy strikes the solar panel. The energy passes through an inverter, which converts the electricity from Direct Current to Alternating Current so it can be integrated into the building’s electrical system. This will reduce the amount of energy F-M takes from the electric grid because it is creating its own.


The system will still function during and after snowfall, as long as the sun is shining. The panels will be positioned with an angle, which will enable snow to melt off each panel once the sun shines. Sunlight can penetrate a great deal of snow so as the panels start to generate electricity, they also generate heat, which begins melting the snow and causes it to slide down to the face of the panel.


Typically the panels will clean snow within 24 hours. The biggest challenge related to snow is that the system will not produce during a snowstorm because the sun is not shining.



Solar water heater

Hot water is circulated through pipes, picking up energy from the sun and increasing the water temperature. The water is then circulated for use throughout the building.


The system will be able to provide the entire domestic load during the summer months and will provide a portion of the energy during the remaining school year.


The boiler down time during the summer months will allow for any maintenance that needs to be done and also increases the equipment’s life cycle.


Waste oil heater

The waste oil furnace will use motor oil generated from district vehicles as its energy source. Use of the waste oil will offset natural gas that the district currently purchases for heating the district’s bus garage.  


Related news articles

Fayetteville-Manlius School District installs 442 solar panels- NewsChannel 9, 8-11-11

Solar panels on F-M Schools teach students 'green' initiatives- The Post-Standard, 8-1-1

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