The East Hampton School District took its first step this week toward installing solar panels and other energy-efficiency upgrades, having recently received the go-ahead from the State Education Department.
The project, which will take about five years to complete, will save the district money on energy costs, said J.P. Foster, president of the school board.
“It’s been checked and rechecked for years now,” he said at Tuesday’s board meeting, during which members approved a financing agreement with Bank of America and Merrill Lynch for $4.6 million over 18 years.
Jerel Cokley, assistant superintendent for business, said solar power was expected to save at least $1 million during that time. “There is definitely a benefit,” he said yesterday. “There are also some teachable moments as far as science and being eco-friendly go as well. It’s holistic from the business perspective, the environmental and community perspective, and for the students as well.”
Johnson Controls, the company performing the work, will inspect the schools’ roofs before installing solar panels and co-generators, which can process both solar energy and regular electricity. Among the other improvements are LED lighting, more efficient heating-distribution systems, new furnace controllers, and window film to improve hot and cold air retention in the buildings, Mr. Cokley said.
If the new system does not produce enough energy savings each year to offset its annual cost, Johnson Controls is obligated to reimburse the district for the difference.
“We’re hoping to start over the summer,” Richard Burns, the school superintendent, told the board members.
Christina DeSanti, the board’s vice president, said there was one advantage to having to wait several years to get to this point. “The longer it took, the better the technology became,” she commented. “We’re actually winding up with more panels, and better panels.”