Solar panels among Fairfield summer work projects at public schools
FAIRFIELD—The district added thousands of solar panel to school roofs over the summer as a part of town goals to go green and in a move projected to save schools in future electricity costs.
The installations are part of a state program that offers a process where solar vendors work with power companies to install panels on roofs and then sign an agreement for the town to buy power from the company at a lower rate.
In the state program, the roof space for solar panels is leased to the company that constructs them and takes care of maintenance, school district Manager of Construction, Security and Safety Sal Morabito said. According to Morabito, the district has been considering solar projects for a few years.
Thanks to the program, the district paid nothing for the solar installations, but will get discounts on power as the panels generate solar energy for the companies that own them.
Because the panels were at no cost to Fairfield or its schools, the projects guarantee savings, the town’s Assistant Public Works Director Ed Boman said. He said the panels are expected to save the district about $166,600 each year in electricity. Nearly half of those savings are projected to be from the installation at Fairfield Warde High School, one of six schools in the district that will have rooftop solar panels.
Solar panel projects were only done on new roofs. Fairfield Warde High, Fairfield Ludlowe High and Riverfield Elementary Schools had projects completed by the end of the summer.
Installations at Fairfield Woods Middle, Mill Hill Elementary and Timothy Dwight Elementary Schools are still ongoing, but can continue during the school year and will be completed within the next three to four months, Boman said.
Along with savings, the primary goal of the project is to help reach Fairfield’s goal of getting 25 percent of town and school building power from green sources, Boman said. By the end of 2016, 31 percent of town buildings’ energy use will be green, he said.
On the Warde roof, 2,200 solar panels finished going up at the end of the spring, Headmaster David Ebling said. The 2016-2017 school year will be the first with the panels generating power.
“We see that as part of our contribution to the town’s project in going green,” he said.
In addition to generating green energy, the solar panels could offer an educational opportunity. Warde will have a monitor showing the energy the panels generate, information Ebling said could be used in science classes.
In addition to solar projects, the district upgraded safety and security at all of its schools over the summer. The upgrades included window intrusion glazing, instructional signs and port-o-buckets for lockdowns, locks and cameras at all schools. Some elementary schools also had fencing projects as part of the security changes.
Board of Educational Chairman Philip Dwyer said the district has been upgrading security every summer for the past several years. The ongoing effort is funded by about $1.5 million allocated by the Representative Town Meeting a few years ago, he added.
Ebling said that following last October’s lockdown at all district schools, some areas that needed improvement became clear, though he said the lockdown went smoothly overall. All public schools went on lockdown in the fall of 2015 after phoned threats to several schools.
Ebling identified the port-o-buckets — portable toilets that can be stored for lockdowns — and signage additions as needs identified during the October lockdown.
“Safety and security is always foremost for us,” he said. “It’s a top priority. Our students and staff need to feel safe when they come to school. And certainly things have changed since 9/11 and Sandy Hook.”
Public Schools summer buildings projects
New windows, two new guidance staff offices in Warner House at Fairfield Ludlowe High School
Final work on roof replacement, rebuilding baseball infield at Fairfield Warde High School
Roof replacement by the Bridgeport Arch Diocese at Walter Fitzgerald Campus
Roof replacement, landscape changes in the courtyard at Fairfield Woods Middle School
Two new portable classrooms at Holland Hill Elementary School
New playground, handicap stair lift replacements at Jennings Elementary School
Repair and rebuilding work at North Stratfield School recreational field
Various painting and paving projects across the district