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Another Voice: Solar project demonstrates real community benefits

By Daniel Montante

In today’s global economy, pressure is on every community to compete for good-paying 21st century jobs. One way to do this is to foster development projects that provide learning environments for our students, as well as pathways to growing career and technical opportunities, particularly in the emerging renewable energy sector.

A recent collaboration between the Buffalo Public Schools, PUSH Buffalo, the New York State Energy Research & Development Authority and Montante Solar, has achieved exactly that, while also enabling BPS to save money, reduce its greenhouse gas emissions and contribute to a cleaner environment.

Through this collaboration, Montante Solar installed rooftop solar arrays at 19 city schools. The arrays collectively generate approximately 3.5 million kilowatts of power which is comparable to the annual electricity usage of 400 homes. The arrays reduce electricity demand from traditional sources at each school by about 25 percent annually, reducing greenhouse gas emissions by more than 2,600 metric tons annually, and providing the district with cost savings.

Throughout New York State, and specifically the Governor’s Reforming the Energy Vision (“REV”) initiative to address climate change, we see an enormous commitment to solar energy. In this instance, the BPS project is the largest K-12 solar project completed for a public school district in New York State.

The project scope provided an excellent opportunity to work with the local community. We collaborated with PUSH Buffalo’s Community Hiring Hall to use construction crews from local neighborhoods, placing local workers in good jobs on the frontlines of a growing industry in Western New York. These skilled construction laborers worked side by side with the Montante Solar team to complete the solar system installations at the very schools from which many of them graduated.

In addition to BPS reducing its greenhouse gas emissions and generating direct job opportunities in the community, the project created educational and career pathways for BPS students.  Students are able to experience firsthand the real world application of new technology that has become part of the science and vocational curriculum at BPS, while being introduced to growing career and technical education opportunities in the emerging renewable energy industrial sector.

The BPS project creates long-term operations and utility cost savings, decreases overall energy consumption and emissions, and provides students with a healthier environment. Through the partnership with PUSH Buffalo, the project directly benefited the community with jobs and the opportunity to acquire new technical skills.

When executed with teams who are invested in the local community, projects like the solarization of BPS pay far greater dividends than the value of the power produced for the school district.  These projects enrich students’ educational experience, deliver on job training for one of the country’s fastest growing industries and directly support job growth in the city of Buffalo. They demonstrate that we can grow our economy and create good-paying jobs, while also protecting our natural environment.

Daniel Montante is president of Montante Solar in Tonawanda.

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