Solar plans on the horizon

Solar panels at Western Massachusetts Electric Company’s facility in Springfield, Mass.Photo:

Climate change is a big deal.  In an effort to combat impending global disaster, clean and renewable energy has become increasingly popular.  Not only does solar energy protect our planet it also is free.

If you drive around Western Mass you’ll see huge solar panel farms, hundreds of houses with panels and solar panels in parking lots.  Our school system is joining the fight.  Plans to put solar panels on the middle school roof will begin over the summer.  

The project, spearheaded by science teacher Nick Shaw and the Solar Panel branch of the Environmental Action Club will begin this summer.  Shaw, along with various faculty and professionals to create a group that will research the feasibility of putting solar panels on the school roofs.  Exactly who will be in this planning group is still to be determined.

We won’t be seeing any panels on the middle school quite soon though.  “This process will take a while, a year or so at least.” said Mr. Shaw.  Solar panels on the high school will not be considered for a few more years.  

This research group will look into the cost of purchase versus leasing panels and what would happen if the middle school building was ever sold.  

The process of solar panel installation would begin over a summer after an architect was selected.  

Solar panels are very expensive and the technology is still young, which raises questions about how to fit solar panels into the budget.  Student Manali Rege-Colt reflected on the plan. “Solar panels are definitely worth it and if we don’t do it now we will need to at some point,

she said. “While the budget is a pressing issue people need to see that the reason is to save the planet.”

Solar panels are expensive but because they provide free energy, over time they will pay back their own cost.  Lots of planning will need to go into the economic details. ARPS Financial Director, Sean Mangano, said, “It’s all to be determined at this point.”

Efforts to go solar in the Amherst school system couldn’t have come at a better time.  Legislation to make Massachusetts the first state with a carbon pollution tax was recently approved in Western Mass.

All in all, solar may be on the menu for the school system, but don’t hold your breath.  Actual installation is still a ways off.