The Port Byron Central School District is going green and using new solar panels to instruct students in the benefits of clean energy.

Dec. 27 marked the completion of the solar panel portion of the district's capital improvement project; 40 250-watt solar panels were mounted on the southern side of the elementary school. Each panel is slightly larger than 3-by-5 feet, less than 2 inches thick and weighs about 50 pounds, according to the district.

"They collect energy from the sun and it's tied into the main electrical panel of the school" said district technology director Wenwei Hsu. "Through wireless technology we can monitor them 24 hours a day."

Hsu said it's hard to project an annual savings because the panels were installed in the winter, when the sun is out the least. He said once it is summer, the district will have a better idea of the annual savings.

According to a website that was set up to track the energy harnessed and the money saved by the panels, $167.05 has been saved since the data began to be collected on Dec. 28.

Tod Mervis, field manager with Campus Construction Management Group, the firm that managed the project, said solar panels placed where Port Byron's are should generate around 6,500 kw per year.

"By putting them on the southern side of the building, we've increased the exposure," he said.

Mervis said besides the obvious goals of energy management and trying to become less independent on foreign sources of energy, the solar panels provide an educational opportunity for Port Byron students.

 "It provides a nice teaching tool so we can introduce kids to the technology," he said. "It adds some experiential learning to it instead of just book learning."

Hsu said science and technology teachers will use the data collected and shown on the Sunny Portal website, which can be linked to from the district's site, to show students how much power is being harnessed, what it can do and how it can save money.

"It's an educational opportunity and it also encourages them to use reusable energy," Hsu said.

Staff writer Kelly Voll can be reached at 282-2239 or Follow her on Twitter at CitizenVoll.

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