GE sheds light on FFCS solar-panel installation

FONDA – The Fonda-Fultonville Central School District Board of Education could be looking at harnessing the sun.

General Electric Solar Solutions came to the district recently to discuss the details of installing solar energy panels. Fonda-Fultonville is one of the first school districts the group has spoken with about installing solar panels.

Solar Project Engineer at GE Eric Schiemann said the unique, on-site power source at the district was one of the reasons the company was drawn to the project.

The district currently has an independent system that was installed from 2003-04 and cost $3 million. It features five natural gas-fire engine generators, waste heat recovery boilers, a 600-ton absorption chiller and an emergency generator for the entire campus. The system gives the school both heat and light.

Schiemann said a study found the system is nearing the end of its life.

Interim Superintendent Raymond Colucciello said the Board of Education had expressed interest in exploring green energy solutions.

Schiemann said that the district may want to look into having a combination of both traditional grid power and solar energy. He said this would include hooking back into the National Grid Power System. He said the district uses around 3.5 million kilowatt hours per year.

Any installation of solar panels would not be a part of the district’s potential capital project since the state is not offering the funding the district would need, officials said.

Schiemann said one option the district could pursue would be to allow GE to install and maintain the system on the school grounds, and the district could purchase the energy produced on-site at a reduced fee. The district would likely have a 20-year contract with the district, after which time the district could choose to purchase the equipment.

He said another possible option to look at would be to work out a deal with National Grid, in which the district could offer energy back to the provider during times of need.

Schiemann said the system could also prove to be an educational tool providing students with real-time data of energy creation and output on the Apple Cloud system.