Shedding Light on South’s Solar Panels

Adrian Nocelli, Staff Writer

Remember hearing that loud banging on the roof a few weeks ago? Well, solar panels are being installed on the roofs of High School South. It will take many weeks to finally complete, but the difficult task will be worth it when South can use solar energy as a new source for the school’s electricity. Although solar panels have some limitations due to weather conditions (like cloudy, rainy, or stormy days), there are so many benefits that come with harvesting the sun’s energy as a new electricity source.  My interview with South’s principal, Mr. Kirkpatrick helped to bring some of these benefits to light:


Adrian: What gave Middletown the idea to use solar power for energy?

Mr. Kirkpatrick: The district started looking at solar panels as a way to reduce energy costs six or seven years ago. At that time, the roofs on the district’s buildings were at the end of their lives, so putting panels on those roofs was not an option. As a possible alternative, we considered solar parking-lot canopies, but the cost to construct them outweighed the potential savings. Since that time, all seventeen district buildings have had new roofs installed, so installing solar panels on the roofs became a viable option.


Adrian: What will solar panels do for the school?

Mr. Kirkpatrick: The solar panels that have been mounted are comprised of photovoltaic solar cells, which will convert the energy from sunlight directly into electricity. A portion of the electricity that is produced will be used by the school building.


Adrian: What excites you the most about the use of solar panels?

Mr. Kirkpatrick: A solar photovoltaic system has specific advantages as an energy source. Once installed, its operation generates no pollution and no greenhouse gas emissions. The solar system will also reduce the districts energy costs, providing savings that we are using to finance improvements to the district heating and cooling systems and other facilities projects.

Adrian: What were the costs associated with the solar panels?

Mr. Kirkpatrick: The solar panels are part of the district’s Energy Savings Improvement Plan (also known as ESIP) that was reviewed and approved by the NJ Board of Public Utilities (or BPU). This is a program in which the district packages projects that will provide energy savings with other needed improvement projects so that the work can be done without impacting the district’s budget. The solar panel system is being installed as part of a Power Purchase Agreement (PPA). Under this PPA agreement, the district is essentially leasing the space on the building roofs to a solar energy supplier for 15 years. In exchange, the district is able to purchase electricity from the solar energy supplier for a lower price than what we previously were purchasing it for. The solar panel system will not be owned or maintained by the district.


Adrian: Are other schools going to get solar panels?

Mr. Kirkpatrick: All schools will except for Leonardo Elementary because their roof can’t support them.

After all of this information regarding solar panels has come to light, I, for one, have a greater understanding about the solar panels that will be supplied to almost all of the schools in Middletown. Solar energy is a great way to reduce the costs of electricity,  provide bonus electricity in the event of power outages, and protect the environment, ultimately benefiting the school and community.