The state’s 53 high schools are being studied to see which are suitable for energy-efficient initiatives, with the hope that at least some will be able to produce enough energy to erase their energy bills.
Under the John H. Chafee Center for International Business Chaffee Center at Bryant University, the BRITE Team subcontracted an energy expert to explore the feasibility of sustainability at each school.
Funding for the research project came from the R.I. Economic Development Corporation’s Renewable Energy Fund. Earlier this year the fund announced $2.7 million in new grants to help 16 renewable energy projects.
Of that, the BRITE team’s proposal, “Net Zero Energy” buildings for schools, received $123,244.
“If you look at high schools, there’s a great opportunity for solar on the roofs and in some cases there should be an opportunity for wind and they should look at geothermal and all biomass fuels to be used in their boilers,” said A. Ray Thomas, associate director for the Chafee Center.
The idea was born out of the BRITE Team, a collaborative between Bryant University, software company Rite-Solutions, Inc., professors, state politicians and entrepreneurs.
The team had been working on best energy practices of energy efficiency around the world and out of that came recommendations on what Rhode Island should do moving forward, Thomas said.
The team submitted a proposal to the renewable energy fund to produce a “roadmap” for the schools to get as close as possible to a “Net Zero Energy” building.
So far, the center has subcontracted R.W. Chew Consultants, founded by Bob Chew, who also co-founded Alteris Renewables Inc.
Chew has already tested the wind speeds at the schools and determined that all but 12 are feasible for wind turbines. That doesn’t mean the other schools will be left out completely because they could be perfect for a wood-chip burner or generating solar energy, he said.
“All of these schools have some opportunity,” he said.
The next step is reporting back to the school districts and talking to them about how to do an escrow and help them apply for state and federal money that will help them make the transition, whether to solar energy or wind energy, Thomas said. •