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The Community Solar Project


Staying true to the district’s and village’s commitment to going green, the Hastings School District has partnered with G&S Community Solar to provide solar energy for the village. The panels will be installed on the school roofs and some preparation for the construction has already begun at Hillside Elementary School. 

Ms. Maureen Caraballo, the district treasurer, explained the long road that finally brought Hastings to G&S Community Solar. Previously, the district explored having solar panels to power their own buildings and worked with different brands but unfortunately had trouble finding a cost-effective or cost-neutral way to incorporate solar energy. 

“Any of these projects don’t just suddenly happen… there’s lots of ins and outs, false starts and starts,” said Dr. William McKersie, the Hastings Superintendent.  

That’s when G&S Community Solar reached out to the village, referring them to the school. 

“They were able to offer us a model that not only was something that we really felt strongly about from an environmental standpoint but then offers the community the additional benefit of solar,” Ms. Caraballo explained. “It was a great win-win and then in addition to that the district actually earns rental income from the company.” 

Because schools already are discounted on energy prices, she strongly believes this is the most beneficial model as it will allow residents to be environmentally conscious and also provide revenue for the district. 

So what is the Community Solar model? Community Solar rents out space on the roof of buildings to place solar panels. They plan the construction themselves as a contractor and hire engineers for the project. They then offer this energy first to the community in which they placed the panels and then put the rest into the grid. 

A large part of the community outreach to inform residents about the possibility to get their energy from these new solar panels was done by Hastings High School seniors, Barney Smith and Erik Ghalib. 

“We just finished 555 sign-ups from the community. It’s just me and Erik’s role as we’ve gone into different classes from 7th to 12th grade, talking about the benefits, giving flyers to kids, stuff like that,” explained Barney. “We’re just happy to do something that is such a beneficial cycle because the school gets paid rent money, the village municipality gets government subsidies, and the G&S Solar obviously profits because they sell [energy] back to the grid.” 

Barney and Erik have helped people along the process and made sure to let Hastings residents know what a great opportunity this is. Along the way they’ve encountered some bumps, such as when ConEdison changed their ID number processing system and they had to notify all the people that had already signed up to send them a newer bill to get the new system right. Nevertheless, the outreach has been a success overall. A highlight noted by Barney and Erik was when they went around the middle school and were met with great enthusiasm by students yelling “Free money!” and taking all their flyers. In the end, of the families that signed up, a great percentage had children in the middle school.

The community solar initiative is part of the district’s efforts to be a more sustainable and environmentally conscious school system. Recently, composting has been reintroduced to Hillside, making sure that it’s done mindfully in a way that will truly benefit the school and the earth. 

“As technology evolves, there are new opportunities to become more green,” said Ms. Caraballo. “As we look at considering some projects around the district, we are considering, if possible, different types of heating systems [and] different types of cooling systems that are more environmentally friendly.”

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