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Sanibel Sea School going solar

By Staff | Oct 14, 2015

The Sanibel Sea School administration building will be getting some renovations done in the near future, along with new solar panels on the roof. BRIAN WIERIMA

There is a cost effective method which is more prevalent in Florida than any other state in the United States and the Sanibel Sea School is about to tap into it.

Florida isn’t called the Sunshine State for no reason, with an abundance of sun radiating here year round, and that’s precisely what the Sea School will be using to drop their energy costs by nearly $5,000 a year.

With plans underway for renovations to the Sanibel Sea School, co-founder and executive director Dr. Bruce Neill is putting the non-profit’s money where their mouth is with the installation of solar panels on the administration building’s roof.

“One of the bylaws of the Sanibel Sea School is that we conduct our business in a very environmentally friendly manner,” Dr. Neill said. “We have our hands over the fire and we need to walk the walk.”

With climate change at the forefront of environment activism, the Sea School will be doing its part to quell its carbon dioxide production by being fully self-efficient with solar energy.

“We will be install a 20 kilowatt solar package on the roof of the administration building,” Dr. Neill said. “Then when we move our other building and fix the roof, we will install solar panels on that one, as well.”

The out of pocket cost for the Sea School will be estimated around $40,000. The non-profit organization is receiving donations from several family foundations, as well as private donors. There are several industry partners also helping in the project, along with deals provided by the manufacture, costs have been cut significantly.

“We’ve investigated the permitting process and hope to be online with this in about 90 to 120 days,” Dr. Neill added.

The result will be the solar package will be generating more electricity than the Sea School will be using. They will be on the grid, meaning the power they generate through the solar panels, will be going directly to the LCEC (electrical company), where it will be dispersed to other customers.

The LCEC buys that energy from the Sea School, but will charge them costs during the evening hours.

“We will be generating more electricity during the day than we use during the night, so we will become self-sufficient,” Dr. Neill said. “We typically pay about $5,000 a year for our electricity, so now, our bill will basically be zero.

“That $5,000 is big for a non-profit business like ours. We can afford more scholarships, but of equal importance, is that we are a leader in the community of being environmentally friendly. We have a high visibility rate since we are on Periwinkle Way, so that is important to show we are being responsible.”

In last Tuesday’s Sanibel City Council meeting, the Council gave their full support to “Ding” Darling Wildlife Refuge, which is a part of the Energy SunShot Initiative Rooftop Solar Challenge through the Southwest Florida Regional Planning Council.

The program is making resources available in the form of professional services to investigate making solar energy more available in the region.

With the sun being, in essence, a free source of energy, the Sanibel Sea School is tapping into it. In return, the Sea School is afforded the opportunity to become a leader in environmentally friendly practices, as well as eliminating a bill in the process.