Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul said Monday that New York State, which has set a goal of fifty percent solar energy usage by the year 2030, has expanded its solar energy by 1000 percent since 2011. She joined a group of educators and renewable energy advocates at McKinley High School to make the announcement.
The high school was chosen as the site to make Hochul's announcement in order to spotlight the Buffalo Public School District's own solar energy portfolio. She said 18 buildings within the school district have been fitted for solar panels and a 19th school is nearing completion.
"So what does that mean? Not just that it will reduce their own energy costs but it is also a role model to other districts around the state and indeed the nation," Hochul said. "The success here in Buffalo is something that others will want to replicate."
The school district did not spend any capital funds to install the solar panels on its schools. Daniel Montante, president of Montante Solar, explained his company installed the panels and the district will buy the energy produced by them at a fixed rate for the next 20 years.
"This project will go a long way in allowing the school to manage their operating expenses on an ongoing basis for the next two decades," Montante said.
Buffalo International School #45 and the Marva J. Futures Preparatory School #37 have the largest arrays installed, with 201 kilowatts per campus. McKinley High School has 198 kilowatts of production. When installation is complete on the 19th of its buildings, the Buffalo Public School District will have an estimated 10,000 panels in place for a total 2,866 kW of power.
"This is truly an outstanding achievement for the Buffalo Public Schools and a significant milestone for New York State's effort to create a thriving solar energy sector in our state," said Alicia Barton, president and chief executive officer of the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, or NYSERDA.
"The projects that we're here to celebrate are not an outlier. They are a glimpse of the clean energy future we are now building all across New York State as we speak."
Barton and Montante both acknowledged that the cost to install solar panels has, for years, kept the idea of using renewable energy out of reach for many. The price, they both said, has dropped sharply in recent years and many homeowners may finally find the idea of solar panels affordable.
Barton noted that there are several programs available that encourage residents and business owners to install and energize with solar components.
"Currently, for homeowners that are interested in accessing solar energy, there are a number of different tax credits and incentives available to make that a really cost-effective choice," she said. "There's a federal 30 percent tax credit can access. Then there's a New York State tax credit. In addition, through NYSERDA, there are incentives under Governor Cuomo's $1 billion NY-Sun incentive. All of those come to help lower the cost of making the choice to go solar."
Lt. Governor Hochul, meanwhile, spoke of the jobs already created to manufacture solar panels at the Tesla-Panasonic facility in Buffalo and the jobs that will await today's students. Ryan Ebeling, a senior at McKinley, is in his fourth year studying in the school's electrical program. He explained he has learned local and national electrical codes, residential and commercial wiring and, increasingly, about renewable energy.
"I feel that I'm prepared to enter the workforce," Ebeling said. "I will be continuing my education with Alfred State and then pursuing my career with the union (International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 41)."