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BOCES to study benefits of districtwide solar energy

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WATERTOWN — The Jefferson-Lewis Board of Cooperative Educational Services will look into bringing solar energy to schools across the district and to interested schools in St. Lawrence County through a consolidated study.

BOCES Superintendent Jack J. Boak said consolidating solar energy studies would save the districts money in the long run and would be the easiest way to introduce it to area districts and governments.

The Lewis County Legislature and some St. Lawrence County school districts also have expressed an interest in joining in the project.

“It’s all very preliminary at this stage,” Mr. Boak said.

BOCES Director of Finance Michelle A. Traynor said she sent out requests for letters of intent to the Jefferson-Lewis BOCES schools and St. Lawrence school district superintendents.

“We’re trying to get letters of intent from the districts and municipalities so we can analyze the scope of the project,” Ms. Traynor said.

Mr. Boak said BOCES is working on writing grant applications that would incorporate the districts.

Ms. Traynor said they must determine how much money is spent in the individual districts on utilities. Mr. Boak said the data they collect will determine how large the scope of the project might be.

“The outcome of those applications will determine how fast we are able to move,” Mr. Boak said. “We’re probably two years away if the studies conclude it will work putting the project together.”

Carthage Superintendent Peter J. Turner said his district was in the process of launching a solar energy feasibility study.

“I think it would be greater strength in numbers. Hopefully that happens,” Mr. Turner said.

Mr. Turner said the Carthage district was under a looming deadline to apply for grants in the next few weeks. He said the news BOCES would be conducting its own study relieves his district of trying to meet upcoming deadlines.

“There was a time limit on the grants that were available. Working with BOCES would be good for us,” Mr. Turner said.

Mr. Boak said solar energy should save the districts money.

“Utility costs are always a big expense to our districts,” Mr. Boak said. “Superintendents have an obligation to constantly look at ways to save money, and this is just another avenue to explore for schools.”

Mr. Boak said the consolidated solar energy campaign would essentially be like buying energy in bulk at a cheaper price.

If a larger number of institutions signs on to the project, it could be a more seamless transition that benefits more than one entity.

“At first we were looking at how this could be done at our BOCES campus and from that discussion we decided to use recent technologies that could benefit more districts,” Mr. Boak said. “The larger the number of districts that participate, the larger the savings. We would have more bargaining power with more districts.”

Mr. Boak said if the grant applications are successful, BOCES will put out requests for proposals for consulting firms.

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