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Students plug into solar panel savings at JCC

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The average person might not consider Friday’s slate gray, snow-laden sky to help a building reap the benefits of solar power.

According to Ronald B. Meyers, the energy program director at Jefferson Community College, the single polyvoltaic solar panel that was installed on campus was trickling in the slightest bit of converted energy.

By the end of Friday, 14 more Schott solar panels will be set up at JCC’s Child Care Center with the help of students from the Jefferson-Lewis Board of Cooperative Educational Services’ New Visions alternative energy course and JCC’s energy theory and practice course, giving the students hands-on experience while reducing the college’s energy bill.

“At JCC, we’ll save 30 years of electricity, almost $19,000,” Mr. Meyers said. “That’s not including the rate hikes every year, the 3 percent hikes.”

The child care center alone will reduce its energy costs by 25 percent, saving taxpayers more than pocket change when the college factors this into its budget for the 2012-13 fiscal year.

Even more, high school and college students are working together to make this happen at the child care center.

“I’ve always been interested in renewables,” said Carlton L. Young, BOCES alternative energy instructor. “A couple of years ago, I went to my administrator and asked for the course.”

Mr. Young, who has been an electrician for more than 30 years, said that at least 15 students have signed up for next year’s New Visions alternative energy course, compared with this year’s seven students.

“Word has gotten out and a lot of students are interested.,” he said.

The students also will leave the class with nine college credits from JCC’s Education Demonstrating Growth and Excellence program.

According to some of the students working on installing the solar panels, this is the first major project for the New Visions class. Before installing the panels, students have learned basic electrical wiring and construction skills. At the end of the course, they will receive their electrical certification.

“It has good job opportunities. With the new energy coming up, they’re going to need new workers,” said Deryck H. Montante, a senior at Thousand Islands High School and a BOCES New Visions student.

The German solar panels that the college ordered, which were paid with a $14,138 federal Perkins grant, will last approximately 30 years before having to be replaced at the child care center.

Next month, the New Visions and JCC students will team up again to install a solar water heater at the child care center, further bringing down the building’s energy costs. Mr. Meyers’s estimate is that the kilowatts will be reduced by 75 percent when the class is finished with all of the projects it is planning in the next few years.

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