By BOB TUROSZ
NORTH READING — The new North Reading High School and Middle Schools are designed to be “green” buildings, planned that way to save energy over the long term and to maximize the amount of state reimbursement taxpayers received on the project.
But they won’t be getting greener in the future with the addition of solar panels, the Secondary Schools Building Committee decided recently. With the new high school completed and occupied and the middle school over 70 percent complete, the SSBC decided now is not the time to be adding solar panels to the project. The middle school is scheduled to open by the end of August, 2015.
The issue came up at the SSBC’s last meeting when it was reported school business manager Michael Connelly was contacted by a representative from a solar panel company about the possibility of adding solar panels to the roof of the new school and to cover the entire rear parking lot with a canopy of solar panels. Architect Rob Juusola noted it didn’t appear as if the concept had gone through the building committee and he wanted to check before he provided site plans and building drawings for a lay out.
The SSBC had some intriguing, futuristic–looking drawings of what the school’s rear parking lot would like covered with canopies that looked to be eight to 10 feet high, topped with solar panels and first reactions were several comments that the canopy would certainly make the DPW’s job of plowing snow in the parking lot in the winter much more difficult.
But overall, the unanimous sentiment was that it’s far too late in the project to consider a major added feature like this.
Supervisor of Buildings and Grounds Wayne Hardacker said the proposal came to the school department through the Reading Municipal Light Department because the energy conservation company has done some other schools in the area. “We can do it now or later or not at all,” said Hardacker.
The SSBC is focused right now on overseeing the remaining construction of the middle school and district administration offices and making sure the new construction comes in on time in 2015 and on budget. So there was little appetite for an expensive diversion at this point. SSBC Chairman Chuck Carucci recalled visiting Hanover High School, which installed solar panels and that the payback period would take several decades. Robert Lambert from PMA, the project manager, said the district saved a little over $900 over two years and the panels cost $500,000 to install. And the panels need to be replaced after 10 to 20 years, he added.
The SSBC told Juusola they consider the issue moot and if he’s contacted again, the response should be “not at this time.”