A New York mill town is once again pioneering the use of cutting edge renewable technology. The City of Cohoes harnessed hydropower back in the mid-1800s, and is now using solar energy to produce power for its schools.
Cutting edge technology
The Cohoes Middle School and the Cohoes High School are each installing a 45.6 kW rooftop photovoltaic array. These will give the schools a combined solar power capacity of 90kW. It will replace 14% of annual electric consumption for the Middle School, and 10% for the High School.
Solar panels will be mounted at a tilt angle of 15 degrees to the horizon. This will maximize production of solar energy in the summer. The school’s energy demand is lowest during this period, so the summer solar energy production will contribute a high percentage of the school’s utility during these solar-energy-rich months.
The system will also provide peak power during the most congested times on the electric grid. The total annual utility cost savings will be over $20,000.
Helping the economy
The project will employ skilled New Yorkers during the construction, who will install American-made products. The SCHOTT solar panels are manufactured in Albuquerque, New Mexico and the PV Powered inverter is manufactured in Bend, Oregon.
The Cohoes City School District (CSD) is no stranger to energy efficiency programs. The Cohoes CSD has seen a district-wide drop of 40% in energy use since 2004, and has been recognized as a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Energy Star leader every year since 2006.
The Cohoes CSD participates in the NYSERDA’s Energy Benchmarking Service. This allows the schools to understand where and how they are using energy. As Superintendent of Buildings and Grounds for Cohoes CSD, Ken Kellogg, notes: “we cannot manage what we do not measure.”
Five Cohoes schools have been awarded Energy Star Building Labels. This means the school buildings are more efficient than at least 75% of other school buildings in the U.S.
The schools have a combined enrollment of 1,200 students. Could these young people become future climate scientists? Project engineers believe the cutting edge renewable technology will inspire the students.
Students will be able to monitor the carbon dioxide offset, power production levels, and money saved. Combined with a kilowatt hour meter, students will be able to study on-site energy generation in real time.
“These students are on the cusp of a shift in the way the next generations perceives renewable energy,” said Dennis Phayre, commercial sales director for Alteris Renewables, the firm which installed the Middle School project. “The educational benefits of this system are innumerable.”
The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act awarded a $309,821 grant to the Cohoes Middle School and a $314,309 grant to the Cohoes High School for this project. These grants came from the U.S. Department of Energy’s State Energy Program.
Sources used in researching this article include NYSERDA: Energy Technology Works in ‘Harmony’ With Historic New York Mill Town
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