Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Warren Easton dubbed first Solar School

Posted By on Wed, Sep 30, 2009 at 10:29 PM

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In this week's Green Matters, I take a look at the New Orleans Solar School Initiative (click the link for the full story). This morning, Entergy Corporation, Nike and the initiative's partners formally announced (and unveiled) the nearly $1.7 million effort that's been in the making since 2007.

This morning, Warren Easton Senior High School principal Alexina Medley proudly claimed her school as having the largest social array in New Orleans, and potentially, the state. Medley and partners in the New Orleans Solar school Initiative, in front of cameras, press, and, most importantly, students, offered  a rundown of the program and plenty of formal thank yous and best-of-luck-to-yous.

But on the roof, where only a few days before installers with South Coast Solar were wrapping up the finishing touches, there's something interesting. Still scribbled on tin roofing and cement are HELP and SOS messages — reminders of being trapped while the federal flood surrounded Mid-City. Now, riding shotgun with those messages, is a $500,000, 6,634-square-feet, 37,000 kilowatt-hours-producing solar panel installation, enough power for three houses. The system is capable of saving the school approximately $4,000 in utility costs, and could reduce emissions of up to 50,000 pounds of carbon a year.

The roof is entirely flat and whitewashed. By noon, it's blinding. No wonder it's a prime location. Rod West, president and CEO of Entergy New Orleans, says Warren Easton was the first draw for the initiative (three other schools are slated for similar systems — up next is Joseph A. Craig Elementary) for several reasons: the school's history (96-years-old and still kickin'), central location and "where it was before and after the storm." The "unprecendented opportunity" for greenovation, he says, is one from Entergy's commitment to environmental responsibility and fiscal prudence.

At the unveiling, environmental sciences teacher Frank Coco lined up a group of students for a photo. Coco's classes will get to use the software that reads in real-time the panel's progress — charts, graphs, real-time statistics, all plainly laid out to see the system at work. "It's an educational opportunity,for real types of projects using alternative energies," West says. The day was hailed as a great day for young people by coordinators, who see the project as a launchpad for green jobs and kickstarting a green economy as early as high school.

Then again, one needs only to peer over the side of the building and see an endless row of cars parked along Canal Street. New Orleans won the battle today, but its war on carbon is only beginning.

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