Published 11/18/11

Renewable energy for RI schools

SMITHFIELD, R.I.  (Nov. 18, 2011) –  A Bryant University initiative made possible by a grant from the Rhode Island Renewable Energy Fund is helping 53 public high schools and career technical centers in the Ocean State determine which renewable energy technologies can be installed at their facilities and how much energy would be generated.

Under the program, funded through a $123,244 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act grant administered by Bryant's Chafee Center for International Business, each school will be evaluated for its potential use of solar energy, wind energy, biomass, geothermal, and combined heat and power units.

A Bryant  initiative is helping 53 public high schools and career technical centers determine which renewable energy technologies can benefit their bottom line.

"Our goal is to provide a roadmap for every public high school and career and technical center in Rhode Island that will help them get as close as possible to net-zero energy through practical and cost-effective use of renewable systems," said project manager Bob Chew, chief energy consultant at R.W. Chew, LLC. "When combined with conservation measures, energy-efficient retrofits and a new appreciation about the many benefits resulting from saving energy, the collective impact across the state will be significant."

Net-zero energy is a term applied to buildings that generate on-site distributed energy equal to or greater than their consumption.

The final report for each school will contain information about energy retrofits and renewable energy systems that can be successfully implemented on site. Technologies that will be considered include photovoltaics; solar hot water and solar hot air systems; wind turbines; woodchip boilers; methane digesters; geothermal heating and cooling systems; and micro hydro systems where reliable sources of moving water are available.

Also included in the final report:

  • information regarding placement for photovoltaic arrays, along with a design to maximize the size of the array, probable project costs and predicted energy savings;
  • for schools meeting specific wind speed criteria, a site assessment detailing what size turbine can be installed on the school property without creating problems with noise or shadow flicker;
  • schools that use significant amounts of hot water in kitchens and showers will receive a design for a solar hot water system, along with probable project costs and predicted energy savings;
  • schools with unshaded south-facing roofs lacking windows will receive a preliminary design for a wall-mounted solar hot air system to help heat the building;
  • each school will receive information regarding probable cost and predicted energy savings resulting from the installation of woodchip boilers, geothermal systems, or methane digesters coupled with combined heat and power units.

School officials will have an opportunity to review their detailed report and ask questions during a seminar on renewable energy to be held at Bryant University in February 2012.

"One of our goals at the R.I. Department of Education is to ensure that our school buildings are safe and supportive places for teaching and learning and that our schools use energy wisely in order to save taxpayer dollars and preserve natural resources," said Deborah A. Gist, commissioner of Elementary and Secondary Education. "The Net Zero Energy project can help our school buildings operate efficiently, and it will also provide an opportunity for students to learn about energy systems, renewable resources, and environmental science."

"We are thrilled to have Bob Chew as the project manager. His knowledge of renewable energy systems and green building is extensive, and the roadmaps he will create will be invaluable for helping the participating schools understand which renewable energy solutions make sense for them," said Ray Fogarty, director of the Chafee Center.