Newark’s public school system is going green in a big way.
On a day when Newark dedicated four large solar installations at four of its schools, it announced a partnership with Public Service Electric & Gas to create a Green Energy Education program for its high school students.
The educational program is designed to provide students with an understanding of the evolving technologies that drive renewable energy, a schooling that hopefully will prepare them to compete for jobs in what officials expect will be the new green economy.
The program’s first classes are expected to start in 2011. Beginning in 2012, the program will include summer clean-energy jobs and other career development opportunities for high school juniors and seniors.
For PSE&G, the state’s largest gas and electric utility, the program offers a future cadre of utility workers to replace an aging workforce, which has left it and other traditional utilities scrambling to find the blue-collar workers to maintain and upgrade its gas and electric grids. The utility already is partnering with community colleges to offer an associate degree program that feeds new workers into the company.
"This partnership is aligned with our district’s Strategic Plan, which emphasizes employability for our students upon graduation, as well as advancement toward higher education in the field of sustainability," said District Superintendent Clifford B. Janey. "Clearly, the green job market has great potential for these opportunities."
The green curriculum will begin in the next marking period with an introductory ninth grade exploratory course giving students a primer on renewable energy and green energy, according to Shauwea Hamilton, manager of community affairs for PSE&G. School officials eventually hope all ninth graders take the 90-minute elective offered each day, Hamilton said.
"It’s intended to be a teaser, something to get them excited about the subject matter," Hamilton said. Each year, the utility will work with Newark teachers to develop the next year’s course curriculum, but it is likely to focus on areas such as doing energy audits, solar installations and other aspects of the green economy.
Beginning next summer, the district will try to find employment opportunities for students with local contractors who are installing solar systems into the city’s municipal buildings.
It was a point mentioned repeatedly yesterday at the dedication of a new solar installation at Newark’s Central High School.
"By being here, by putting these panels up, we are putting people to work," PSE&G President Ralph LaRossa told students in the school’s spacious auditorium. “This project is an example of how solar power can provide much more than clean energy -- it can help bring about a better future for our young people, our communities and our state’s economy."
The installation of the four solar systems in Newark’s schools is a part of the utility’s Solar 4 All program, a $515 million initiative designed to install 80 megawatts of solar projects in schools, municipal buildings, low-income housing facilities and nonprofit centers by 2013, according to Al Matos, vice president of renewable and energy solutions for PSE&G.
The Newark project, which cost $14 million and is being paid for by the utility, involves four solar installations totaling 2.6 megawatts of solar capacity at Central High School, Barringer High School, Park Elementary School and the Camden Street Schools. It generates the equivalent of the amount of electricity needed to power about 400 average-sized homes.
PSE&G owns and operates the soar systems. The revenues from the electricity and Solar Renewable Energy Certificates (SRECs) that they generate are used to offset the cost of the project. In turn, PSE&G will pay a lease to the district. Newark is the first school project undertaken by PSE&G under its Solar 4 All program, but dozens of other school districts have installed similar systems to save money.
PSE&G has 22 different solar projects under construction. By the end of the year, it expects to have installed a capacity of 30 megawatts around the state, Matos said.