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Official: Solar Panels Could Save District $6 million

Project expected to be completed by mid-July.

Solar panels at seven schools are expected to be operational by July and could save the district $6 million in energy costs over the next 15 years. 

Panels are being delivered to four elementary schools today: Packanack, Lafayette, Theunis Dey and A.P. Terhune. They are being placed in storage trailers until installation work begins when the snow melts; installation is expected to take six to eight weeks.

Panels will be also be installed this year at Schuyler-Colfax Middle School, Anthony Wayne Middle School Wayne Hills High School. 

John Maso, facilities manager for the Wayne School District, said the entire project is expected to be complete by mid-July. 

The district could save $200,000 in the first year the panels are operational and $6 million throughout the length of the agreement.

Once complete, the project is expected to generate 35 percent, or 3.16 megawatts, of the electricity needed to power the district's academic buildings.

Once installed, the panels will begin to generate electricity immediately, but must first be hooked up to schools before the power they generate can be utilized. 

"It will be a seamless transition from one to the other," Maso said.

The district will buy the solar energy from Nautilus Solar Energy LLC, an independent solar power producer, through a 15-year power purchase agreement. The district will only pay for the clean solar energy the panels produce, not for the panels or any installation costs. The district will still have to pay for the power it uses that is generated by fossil fuels. 

"The board [of education] is being visionary," Maso said. "These panels are saving the taxpayers money and reducing the district's carbon footprint. The money that the district saves can be reinvested into other energy-saving projects and be put back into the school system. The board is educating students by letting them know, at an early age, that providing green energy is vital to the planet."

Nautilus did not return calls for comment Tuesday afternoon.

Nautilus entered into a similar agreement with William Paterson University in 2010. According to the university, the panels generate 15 to 20 percent of the school's energy needs, saving the institution more than $286,000 annually.

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