September 9, 2022
ROBBINSVILLE, NJ (MERCER)–There are many benefits to the clean energy project that was installed in the parking lots of Robbinsville High School and the Pond Road Middle School this summer.
The school district will be saving more than $100,000 a year on energy costs and did not pay a penny for this public-private initiative approved by the State of New Jersey. There are also now solar canopies that will protect cars from the elements, while an education program is being created to use solar panels as a teaching tool for students in regard to the importance of green energy.
And, of course, the school district is also joining in the global effort to use solar as a way to fight off climate change.
“We could not be more pleased with this project,” said Schools Superintendent Brian Betze. “At absolutely no cost to taxpayers, we have been able to install millions of dollars of solar infrastructure in our parking lots, saving substantial electrical costs every single year.”
The school district contracted with HESP Solar of Montvale, which installed the two canopy systems through July and will sell excess energy on the power grid. The system will generate enough solar power to serve 300 homes.
One system is in the rear of the high school; the other is in the front parking lot of the middle school. The 5,300 solar modules will jointly produce 3 million kilowatts of electricity annually, replacing about 80% of the schools’ electrical consumption with renewable energy.
School officials negotiated the electric rate prior to the rise in inflation, at 4.7 cents per kilowatt hour with only a 1% increase per year, allowing the district to accurately budget its utility expenses over the next 15 years without concern of fluctuations in the market.
Nick Mackres, the district’s business administrator/board secretary, said the school district launched its solar energy program in 2015, when the district installed a roof-mounted solar system, generating 90,000 kilowatt hours per year, at Sharon Elementary School.
At the end of the power purchase agreement in 15 years, the school district could either ask the vendor to remove the solar panels at no cost, purchase the infrastructure at a discounted rate or extend the agreement.
“Every dollar I save in operations is a dollar more that can be used to fund education in the classroom and a dollar less we have to raise taxes,” Mackres said. “We are saving more than $100,000 a year at no cost to taxpayers for the betterment of all students and staff.”
School officials are eager to infuse solar energy lessons into the science and technology curriculum, explaining how the sun provides such a tremendous amount of energy that it can satisfy all of the Earth’s needs in a fraction of a day.
“This is a fantastic opportunity to bring clean energy at a reasonable price into our facilities,” said Rich Young, vice president of the Robbinsville Board of Education. “This state-of-the-art system will use the power of the sun to power our schools while saving the district tens of thousands of dollars in energy costs each year. Those savings can now be reallocated to improve curriculum and help create new opportunities for students and staff — real money that can be spent in the classroom where it’s most needed and most important.”
As part of the agreement with the solar company, the vendor will be providing additional solar panels that will be used in the classroom for lessons on green energy. Students would be able to connect a voltage meter that shows how the solar panels trap and generate electrical power.
The project also features an online kiosk, in which students and the community-at-large can track solar usage and its environmental benefits. With a little more than a month’s operation, the kiosk shows that the schools’ clean energy project is already equivalent to saving nearly 500 trees, more than 462,000 miles of driving vehicles, or offsetting more than 1 million pounds of carbon.
“I would like to express my appreciation to the school administration as well as the board of education for continuing our efforts to make the Robbinsville schools as clean and green as possible,” said Board President Vito Galluccio. “We are fortunate to be among a small contingent of school districts in New Jersey that have embraced solar energy as a way to cut energy costs while providing a new avenue of hands-on learning for our students.”
Robbinsville School District Solar System
Robbinsville Public School District recognizes our responsibility to protect the environment and is committed to reducing our carbon footprint. Each school building participates in solar energy programs to minimalize the impact our district has on the environment.
Robbinsville High School and Pond Road Middle School
The Robbinsville High School and Pond Road Middle School solar project was developed and constructed by HESP Solar, and was commissioned in the summer of 2022. The project consists of two canopy systems that jointly produce approximately 3,000,000 kWh of electricity annually, replacing over 80% of the schools’ electrical consumption with clean, renewable energy. In all, over 5,300 Waaree Solar modules were installed at Robbinsville High School & Pond Road Middle School for a total of 2.6 MW dc with 33 string inverters converting the solar energy into usable electricity.
Sharon Elementary School
Sharon Elementary School has a district-owned, roof-mounted solar system producing 90,000 kilo-watt hours per year installed with the latest addition in 2015.