Lehman reaches for sun

When the sun’s rays beat down on Lehman High School next fall, the school will be soaking them up. Lehman is going solar.

Both Lehman High School’s campus, as well as the John F. Kennedy Campus in Kingsbridge, will see solar panels installed as part of a citywide initiatives to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and the city’s carbon footprint, improve air quality, and improve reliability of the electrical grid, particularly in the hottest months.

Lehman High School will have 988 solar “modules” installed on its roof, capable of producing 247,000 watts during peak hours. Kennedy’s roof will also see an installation of 468 modules.

The panels will be installed on the main roof of the building, and over the gym’s roof, said John Shea, the Department of Education’s CEO of the division of school facilities, in an interview.

“We are hoping with the size of the arrays to save about 10% of the power bill at both these schools,” said Shea, adding that exactly how much is saved will only be known once the systems are up and running.

Shea said that some of the benefits of having the solar installation at Lehman should be naturally cooling the building, reducing the heat load on the roof because of the solar panels absorbing the sun’s rays, and a reduction in the DOE’s energy costs.

With about 40% of the city-owned building square-footage and about 25% of its energy bill coming from the DOE’s school system, Lehman’s and Kennedy’s foray into solar energy may only be part of the beginning, he said

“At the DOE, we have always looked for opportunities to install solar on all of our roofs,” said Shea, adding that the larger roofs of high schools usually make the best sites.

The project has no up-front cost and is a public-private partnership with the Department of Citywide Administrative Services and Tangent Energy Solutions, a private company that will install the arrays on four city buildings in the Bronx and Staten Island. They are expected to produce two million kilowatt hours of electricity annually, enough to power about 245 residential homes.

The city will gradually pay back Tangent as power is generated at the sites, said Shea.

The city estimates that these four sites will decrease greenhouse gas emissions by 1,683 metric tons a year. This will help the city meet its goal, as part of PlaNYC – an initiative make the city ‘green’ and energy efficient – of reducing greenhouse gas admissions by 30% by 2017.

“Our school buildings consume 25 percent of the energy use of all the City’s government buildings, and this new program with DCAS to install solar panels at Herbert Lehman and John F. Kennedy High School Campuses will help to reduce our carbon footprint,” said DOE Chancellor Dennis Walcott. “Energy conservation is a top priority as we use less electricity, increase recycling and preserve our natural resources for future generations.”

Patrick Rocchio can be reach via e-mail at procchio@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 742-3393

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