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Monday, November 28, 2011

Economic stimulus funds for green energy in Rhode Island schools

By TIM FAULKNER/ecoRI News staff
SMITHFIELD — High schools across Rhode Island are getting an opportunity to meet all of their energy needs thanks to a project headed by one of the state's top experts on solar and wind energy.
Bob Chew, founder of Alteris Renewables and Solar Wrights, is a familiar face among the state's alternative energy policy and development sector. His latest company, R.W. Chew LLC, will offer many of the same consulting services for solar, wind and geothermal energy, wood-chip boilers and methane digesters, as well as overall energy-efficiency assessments. 
One of his first initiatives, dubbed the Net Zero Energy project, will create plans at each high school for developing an all-encompassing alternative energy system.

A $123,244 federal American Recovery and Reinvestment Act grant run through Bryant University will allow each of 53 public high schools and technology centers in Rhode Island to be evaluated for the most beneficial green-energy supply. 
Each plan will show how individual high schools can achieve net-zero energy, meaning the school will generate energy equal to or greater than its consumption.
Energy systems under consideration include photovoltaics, solar hot water and solar hot air systems, wind turbines, wood-chip boilers, methane digesters, geothermal heating and cooling systems, and micro-hydro systems.
Chew said he started the project to offer unbiased guidance for generating on-site electricity, heat and hot water. "Since most renewable energy companies are experts in just one of the renewable energy technologies and often only have one product to sell, schools might not be given all the information that they need to make an informed decision," he said.
The project also intends to speed up the slow pace of renewable energy system installations, he said, and this study will show the state the potential size of renewable energy in Rhode Island.
It's also an economic stimulant. In past economic downturns, Chew said, the housing industry has helped end recessions. "This time, the housing industry won’t be able to rescue the economy but the green economy will, if we look at creative ways to fund the projects."
The studies are well underway. Reports for each school will provide probable costs and predicted savings. School officials will be able to discuss the reports during a seminar at Bryant University in February.
"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," said Deborah Gist, commissioner of Elementary and Secondary Education for Rhode Island.