SALISBURY – Officials with The Salisbury School (TSS) held a ribbon-cutting ceremony last Friday to celebrate the installation of 900 solar panels on the outskirts of campus grounds.
Solar panels found on the campus will now be incorporated into the school’s STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math)-based curriculum, giving students an opportunity to learn about and create sustainable technology.
Ed Cowell, headmaster at TSS, said officials proposed the project nearly two years ago in an effort to expand the facility’s green school initiative.
“We have a lot of green initiatives in our school and solar is something we considered for many years,” he said. “There are some real educational benefits for our students.”
Nick Kypreos, chairman of the school’s Board of Trustees, said TSS officials approved and pursued the project after examining the feasibility of installing solar panels on the campus and spent most of the following year in the planning and permitting process.
Kypreos said the school reached out to six companies before choosing Ultra Solar and Wind Solutions to complete the five-week project, adding that the company’s solar panels provided the school with the most energy-efficient and cost effective alternative.
“People are starting to realize it’s not just good for the planet, but good for their bottom line,” said Bryan Russo, sales manager at Ultra. “This is something people are starting to see as a viable plan for their financial future.”
The 435-watt SunPower solar panels, located in a vacant field adjacent to Hobbs Road, will provide 100 percent of the building’s electricity over the course of decades, according to Kypreos.
Russo added that the panels generate 391.5 kilowatts of electricity, making it the most powerful unit on the market.
“We are able to create more power using less space,” he said.
Tom Johnson, president of the TSS Educational Foundation, and his wife Anita have financed the project’s installation and will serve as power purchase agreement providers to the school for the next 15 years, saving the school $23,000 in annual utility costs.
“We are extremely fortunate to have a president who has stepped up and said, ‘I will do this,’” Kypreos said.
After that time, the school will acquire the panels and generate its own electricity.
Cowell added that the educational components of the project are just as important as the savings the school will receive. He explained that many classrooms took trips to the solar field during the construction phase and middle school students are already using what they learned from the panels to construct their own, which will be used to illuminate an unlit path around the school.
“We are a very experiential school and like to do hands-on projects with the school,” he said.
Cowell added that Ultra’s SunPower Horizons program, a K-12 curriculum that teaches students about renewable and clean energy, will help fulfill their mission as a green school.
“The idea of the green initiative and not contributing to the carbon footprint in our society has always been the practice of The Salisbury School,” he said.
Although TSS is not the first school in Wicomico County to install solar panels, Russo and Ultra co-owners Brandon Caprarola and Michael Panco said the project was a forward-thinking process on the schools’ part and money saved from the solar panels will be invested back into the children.
“In addition to powering the school, we will also be able to teach students at the school about solar energy,” Russo said. “It becomes this amazing STEM program.”