Fall River Catholic school about to leave a very positive carbon footprint for the future

By Dave Jolivet
Anchor Editor

FALL RIVER, Mass. — The next time GoogleEarth refreshes its sky-view images of Fall River, Holy Name School will have a different look.

That’s because within the next few weeks, work will have been completed on the installation of 575 solar panels on the roof of the building — a project that will ultimately save the school hundreds of thousands of dollars in electricity costs over the next 20 years.

Just over a year after Pope Francis’ iconic encyclical, “On the Care For Our Common Home,” Laudato Si’, the Fall River school took the message of going “green” to heart and went full steam ahead with the solar project.

“This is a wonderful new endeavor,” said Holy Name pastor, Father Jay T. Maddock, at a recent press conference at the school, introducing the initiative. “Our School Advisory Council (SAC) came about this idea more than two years ago, and presented it as a way to help have cleaner energy and to save much-needed funds for the school at the same time. This will be a great benefit for the school.”

Robert Medeiros, chairman of the SAC and the father of a Holy Name student addressed the media, “As parents, we see this as an opportunity to educate our children in clean energy and how we can reduce our carbon footprint.”

He explained the process the SAC went through over the last two years. “This was an educational process for us. We brought in folks to advise us.” Medeiros said the council approached school principal, Dr. Patricia Wardell, with the idea.

“I was thrilled when Mr. Medeiros approached the school with this,” said Wardell. “I love the ‘green’ aspect and it’s a great opportunity for the students to see how solar works, how it is put together.”

 The school brought its findings to Father Maddock, who, in turn, sought the advice and permission of Bishop Edgar M. da Cunha, S.D.V., and diocesan chancellor and chief financial officer Kevin R. Kiley. 

“The bishop was very much in favor of the project,” said Kiley. “We are very pleased with this project, and the diocesan School Task Force will watch the results and perhaps pursue this in other places if possible.”

The council opted to use Fall River-based Alternate Power & Energy to handle the undertaking. “We felt most comfortable with AP&E and its business development manager, Roger Gaydou,” said Medeiros. “It’s exciting on the cusp of being on the cutting edge.”

Father Maddock added, “We had two options: one, buy the system; and two, lease it. We worked with Roger and decided to lease it. It was a very cooperative process. Once the bishop agreed to it, we signed the agreement, and the panels are going up now.”

Gaydou explained how the project will work over the next 20 years. “We will be installing the solar panels on the roof of Holy Name School, leasing the space from the school. In turn, we will be able to save the school 10 cents per kilowatt hour, which will translate into a substantial savings for them.

“With the panels, we will be able to produce 170 percent of the electricity the school needs, so AP&E will be able to sell the excess to a local business, also at a substantial savings to them. At the end of the rainbow, at the end of the 20 years, we will donate the system to the school.”

Handling the installation of the panels is Taunton-based Gexpro, led by its senior sales representative, Craig Dutra.

“We came in and measured the area of the roof and calculated the price of installation,” he said. “We will be installing 575 310-watt photovaltaic panels. This will have the same carbon footprint over the next 20-year span as planting 170,000 trees.”

The installation process is safely taking place while the school maintains a normal schedule. “This has been a smooth and easy process,” added Dutra.

Once the panels are installed, the electric company will come in and make the switch over. When that is complete, Holy Name School will be part of the solar generation.

“I’m looking forward to the day we make the switch,” said Wardell. “I’m very encouraged.”

Holy Name School will be the second school in the city to install solar panels, and the first Catholic school in the city to do so. It will be the first school in the city to go live with solar energy.

One other diocesan school is currently enjoying the benefits of solar energy, St. Francis Xavier Preparatory School in Hyannis.

“Pope Francis in Laudato Si’ asked that we do everything we can to have clean energy,” said Father Maddock. Holy Name School in Fall River is about to leave its mark on the delicate ecosystem that makes up Earth. This step in the right direction will leave the best kind of carbon footprint.

© 2019 The Anchor and Anchor Publishing    †    Fall River, Massachusetts