The East Hampton School District will soon receive a windfall from the Long Island Power Authority as a reward for the “green” aspects of its recent expansion projects. What it does with the money remains undecided, but one idea — to use it to help pay for solar or other renewable sources of energy — is a good one.
East Hampton is essentially being recognized by the utility for being energy-miserly in installing better air-conditioning units, modern furnaces, insulation, and efficient lighting. Already, $197,000 is said to be in the mail, with more likely to come, as improved fixtures are put in and other improvements made. According to a school official, the portion of the money that is the result of improvements at the high school on Long Lane is the single largest amount for any building on Long Island.
If the East Hampton School Board — and taxpayers — needed any more convincing that seeking alternative power sources is a sound long-term investment, it need look no further than the district’s monthly LIPA bill, which can reach $100,000 in the peak cooling months, though it usually is somewhat lower. Dumping the LIPA money into the general fund to pay, perhaps, for January’s power might be tempting, but doing so would squander a rare opportunity — both financial and educational since students might be inspired by the district’s conservation efforts.
Schools and local governments all over the United States have been aggressively installing solar arrays and savoring the annual savings that accrue. In Smithtown, for example, a 110-kilowatt system peels some $27,000 off its central school district’s annual power bill. East Hampton Village has gone solar on its big and important Emergency Services Building with the help of federal grants and is enjoying the results. The Amagansett Fire Department has doubled down on its green credentials, recently augmenting solar panels on its main building with a windmill that pumps out electricity when the sun doesn’t shine.
The East Hampton School District should leverage this one-time LIPA payout toward a long-term benefit.