Here comes the sun

Here comes the sun

Yeshivat Noam installs solar panels

Yeshivat Noam now has solar panels on its roof.

From the parking lot, all you can see is the yellow warning tape.

But the roof Yeshivat Noam in Paramus holds 1,500 solar panels.

On Friday, the panels were connected to the school’s electric wiring. When they are switched on – that is expected to happen any day now – they will provide about half the school’s electric needs.

And they will make Noam the first area Jewish day school to have gone solar.

There is also an educational angle to the panels.

“When I saw the panels going up on the school roof, I thought it would be so cool to tie it in to our learning,” said Barbara Sehgal, one of Noam’s middle school science teachers.

Energy already was at the center of the eighth grade science curriculum, and the annual middle school’s “Earth Fair.” In the past, students have built wind turbines and hydroelectric generators. Now, they will be able to watch real-time data showing how much energy the school is generating. And they will be able to use that data to practice making graphs.

“The point is to make the students aware,” Ms. Sehgal said.

With its low buildings – none is higher than two stories – and flat roofs, Noam is an ideal candidate for solar power. But finding the right firm, and the right business proposition, took time, said Jonathan Kepets, the school’s vice president of finance.

“The ultimate goal of the school was to reduce its operating cost without any cash outlay,” Mr. Kepets said. “It’s not in the best interest of the school to sink capital into a project like this.”

In New Jersey, solar energy doesn’t only make money from replacing electricity that otherwise would have to be bought. It also earns credits that can be sold to electric companies, which are required to generate a specific percentage of their electricity from renewable sources.

In the end, Noam partnered with Amberjack Solar Energy. “The economics were right for us,” Mr. Kepets said.

Amberjack owns the solar panels and paid all costs for installation. Noam will pay a lower-than-market rate for the electricity the panels generate. Amberjack will be able to resell the solar credits.

“It helps us bring in a semblance of stability with the power we’re consuming,” Mr. Kepets said.

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