HOWELL – The Ardena Elementary School, Route 524, has become the first building in the Howell K-8 School District to generate power using solar energy. Because of that improvement, the school will have air conditioning for the first time in April.
The Ardena school is the oldest building in the district. A ribbon cutting and switch flipping event was held at the school on March 19.
In the near future, all the schools will generate power through solar energy and have air conditioning, according to district administrators. The schools will display the district’s cumulative energy saved and environmental benefits such carbon offset, trees saved and power generated to date.
The Board of Education is participating in an Energy Savings Improvement Program (ESIP). In January 2017, the board selected DCO Energy as its partner energy services company to collaboratively design, develop and implement the ESIP.
Administrators said an ESIP enables public entities such as a school district to fund energy improvements and other capital improvements at no cost to taxpayers by paying for the projects using the energy savings.
DCO Energy designed energy conservation measures that strongly aligned with core objectives centered on improving learning environments, enhancing facilities management, increasing sustainability and replacing aging equipment to reduce maintenance costs, according to Howell administrators.
A major driver of the program is an extensive solar energy component. Other improvements included new LED lighting, a new district-wide energy management system, boiler and chiller replacements at Howell Middle School North and Howell Middle School South, building weatherproofing improvements, classroom unit ventilator replacements and providing air conditioning in classrooms at eight buildings that currently are not climate controlled.
On March 19, district administrators gathered at the Ardena school to mark the start of the solar energy program. They were joined by PTA members and students.
“We are excited to announce our solar project is well underway and going along,” Assistant Superintendent for Business Administration Ronald Sanasac said.
Superintendent of Schools Joseph Isola said, “This is the beginning phase of a much larger project. We have solar in all our locations.”
He told students the solar energy panels are now generating power and he said that will lead to energy savings.
“We are going to leave a smaller (carbon) footprint. We are excited about that and part of the bigger project was to bring air conditioning to your classrooms,” Isola said. “I know the boys and girls are excited, but ladies and gentlemen of the Ardena staff, this is for you, too. We appreciate you and all the patience you have had on many days on that second floor in September and May and June.”
At the time administrators flipped the switch on the solar energy, the sustainable energy initiative had saved 54 trees.
“We have reduced the amount of 50,000 driven miles and 111,000 pounds of carbon offset. That is to date (March 19) and we have only been doing it for two months,” Sanasac said.
Board of Education member MaryRose Malley said the event was the culmination of years of work, effort and collaboration.
“This is one step toward our sustainability efforts. We keep working on it, Sustainable New Jersey, we have all the schools registered,” she said. “We are moving in that direction and it is very exciting.”
The Ardena school is expected to have air conditioning as of April 15. Administrators plan to have air conditioning in the remaining schools by September.