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Solar Power shines on East Lycoming School District

By Staff | Apr 21, 2011

Jay Long from Burlington Electrical Company is testing the transformer, the power factor for more than 2500 solar cells installed at East Lycoming School District as seen from Elm Drive in Hughesville. Solar panels have been installed on 3 acres of property owned by ELSD. The system has a payback of 9.1 years.

HUGHESVILLE – Earlier this year the task of installing approximately 2500 solar cell panels became part of an energy performance project through PP&L’s Renewable Energy contract authorized by the state of Pennsylvania. Installed by Millenium Construction from Connecticut, the energy project took until mid-March to be completed. PP&L will guarantee its performance over a period of time according to David Maciejewski, East Lycoming School District’s Business Manager. Currently the solar field will supply fifty percent of the school district’s electric power over a course of one year. “This is a huge savings. The solar system will generate a savings of $150,000 over the year to offset expenses. It has a payback of 9.1 years,” said Maciejewski.

One of the largest so far in Lycoming County, the project sits on approximately three acres of school property sandwiched between hybrid willows and the Hughesville Borough Water Authority’s well field. Comprised of several individual solar cells, the panels collect solar radiation from the sun and actively convert that energy to electricity.

In the solar energy field, photovoltaic (PV) is the conversion of light into electricity, and the concept is growing here in Pennsylvania according to the Solar Energy Industries Association. Pennsylvania has a number of state grant and loan programs for an increase in solar business. Next to California, New Jersey leads as number two in the country for solar said the association’s spokesperson, Monique Harris. “The number of installations in the Mid-Atlalntic and Northeast is way up,” Harris said.

Solar field possibilities came to this area when a million dollar grant was offered from the Commonwealth Financing Authority through a grant awarded in 2010. The entire project totaled 3.9 million dollars. PP&L contributed 1.4 million and East Lycoming School District paid 2.5 million with one million of it coming from the American Recovery Reinvestment Act, a one time federal fund.

Mr. William Carroll Industrial Arts teacher at Hughesville High School is teaching two sections in alternative energy courses for both juniors and seniors. Currently 50 students are enrolled in the science curriculum and are learning not only about the solar panels, but other sources of alternative energy. “It is an exploratory course with hands-on applications of all energy sources with segments on both traditional and alternative,” said Carroll.

“The life expectancy for these panels is 25 years with a performance guarantee based on a 15 year life span,” Maciejewski said. After about 25 years, the solar panels do decrease in deficiency. “Twenty-five years from now they will still be functioning, but will produce less electricity for the district,” he added. “After that panels will remain in place, but will change some out to be more efficient.”

PP&L will be servicing the equipment over the course of time and the school district will maintain the property.