North Shore schools to implement solar power

Solar panels coming to North Shore district in 2021


Members of the North Shore School District Board of Education and administration met with energy conservation company EcoSystems over the district’s winter break to discuss its energy performance contract, used to determine the financial benefits of conserving energy.

District representatives said the schools are set to make several changes to conserve energy, perhaps the most significant being the installation of 2,000 solar panels at North Shore High School, North Shore Middle School and Glen Head Elementary School. According to board Vice President Dave Ludmar, these schools have no interference from trees, and can properly support solar panels.

Other changes meant to reduce the district’s energy consumption will include upgrading of interior and exterior lighting, optimizing heating networks and limiting the amount of heat or cool air the buildings lose.

Superintendent Dr. Peter Giarrizzo said the district’s annual production of greenhouse gases will decrease by 42 percent, from 3,644 tons of carbon dioxide to 2,131, which he said is the equivalent of taking 318 cars off the road or 138 houses off the grid. Additionally, the district should save roughly $7.2 million in energy costs, Giarrizzo said, surpassing the original estimate of $5.7 million.

“I think that, whenever we do planning for projects, we should be looking at ways to decrease our carbon footprint,” Giarrizzo said several days after the meeting with EcoSystems, “and to do things that are energy-efficient and green in nature.”

He added that since air conditioning was a major focus of the $39.9 million bond that voters passed on Dec. 10, cooling district buildings was the primary objective of the energy performance contract. Central air conditioning will be installed in the high school and middle school, and the window units now in those schools will be moved to the elementary schools.

Not only will the cooling come at no additional cost to taxpayers, Giarrizzo said, but it will also be eco-friendly in its implementation. “It’s pretty remarkable to me that we can essentially cool the middle school and high school campuses,” he said, “and decrease our carbon footprint, greenhouse gases and our energy use because of this project.”

The plan will need to be approved by the state when its details are finalized, Giarrizzo said. If all goes according to plan, the installation of the solar panels would start in the summer of 2021.

Ludmar said that the energy performance contract with EcoSystems would be in effect for 18 years, and would essentially pay for itself. He explained that district officials would ultimately control heating, cooling, lighting and exhaust remotely. This, he said, would help the district save money, as officials routinely turn off heating or cooling when the buildings are unoccupied, and turn them on before students and faculty arrive.

When the energy contract expires, Ludmar said, it will have to be replaced by a new one, because current technology may well become obsolete. He also said that the solar panels should not require much maintenance, and are easy to remove if a roof needs repair.

School board Trustee Marianne Russo said she was concerned that installing solar panels might compromise the warranties of the Glen Head and middle school roofs, which are both relatively new. John Hall, the district’s director of facilities and operations, said that is something the district and EcoSystems are looking into.

Board President Sara Jones said the district should reduce its energy output by 36 percent once all of the energy-saving technology is in place. She also said the district could revisit the possibility of installing solar panels on the roofs of the Sea Cliff and Glenwood Landing elementary schools, either by rearranging them to fit on those roofs or by trimming trees that may interfere with the panels’ collection of solar energy.