2016-04-28 / Life in Leelanau

Northport senior project receives $16,000 boost

A solar project has received the go-ahead — and $16,000 — from the Northport Board of Education.

Caleb Brown, a senior at Northport Public School, requested the funds for the solar array as part of his senior project.

The total cost of the project is $27,000. Brown has also received a $12,500 grant from the Leelanau Township Community Foundation Youth Advisory Council for the project.

Brown said he was glad to get the backing of the School Board, which came April 11.

“People are saying it’s the biggest senior project in the school’s recent history,” Brown said. “It will last long after I leave and will be there for several years.”

Brown said he is in the process of seeking state and local permits for installation of the tracking system, which will follow the path of the sun as it moves throughout the day and year to capture optimal energy.

The solar panels that are being installed will provide about 11,000 kilowatt hours of energy per year for the school, or about 3 percent of the 400,000 kWh of energy used by the school per year.

The school pays about $40,000 per year for its energy needs. The solar panel will only offset that cost by a small amount, Brown said, but will be used as an educational tool for future students.

Installation will likely be complete by mid-summer, said Brown, who graduates on June 3.

He’ll get help from a few local people in the energy business who are volunteering their time.

Brown plans to attend Grand Valley State University in the fall, where he’ll pursue a degree in engineering.

The funding was approved on a vote of 5-1, with Gretchen Ross voting “no,” citing budget cuts and the elimination of some positions that were made at the beginning of the 2015-16 school year.

Trustee Bob Bergdoll was absent.

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