Brentwood library moves into the solar age

The 450 solar panels that were recently installed

The 450 solar panels that were recently installed on top of the Brentwood Public Library. Photo Credit: Brentwood Public Library

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The Brentwood Public Library is staying old school with hard-copy books, but is taking its infrastructure to a whole new technological level.

The library on Second Avenue is now home to the largest solar-panel installation at a public library in New York State, according to library director Tom Tarantowicz. Construction on the 450-panel project -- which sits on the flat roof of the three-level, 70,000-square-foot building -- began in November and was completed about six weeks later.

PSEG Long Island provided the library with a $225,000 rebate through its Solar Entrepreneur commercial renewable program, which covered half of the cost, Tarantowicz said.

It will take about seven to eight years of solar-powered energy for the library to recoup the $225,000 that was spent from its capital reserve fund, Tarantowicz said. The library's $7 million budget proposal for 2014-15 won't require a tax hike. Brentwood homeowners currently pay about $300 per year in library taxes.

The library is one of thousands of commercial buildings and residences on Long Island that have benefited from solar power energy rebates that started in 2002. In 2013, about $20 million in rebates were given to 1,625 customers, a 67 percent jump from 2012 when 975 rebates were issued, according to Michael Voltz, director of energy efficiency and renewables at PSEG LI.

Funding for the rebates -- which normally cover one-third of total project costs -- comes from the energy efficiency and renewables charge on PSEG LI customer bills as well as from the state's Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, Voltz said.

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Currently, the library spends about $25,000 per month on electricity. The solar panels, which should last about three decades, are expected to help generate enough energy to offset electricity costs at the library by 12 percent each year, producing $1.2 million of clean, renewable energy over the 30-year period, Tarantowicz said.

Shortly after Tarantowicz began at the library in 2003, he saw a need for infrastructure and sustainability upgrades in the building that was erected in 1989.

"Over the years, we've been making the library greener for cost-effective reasons," Tarantowicz said. "And for the fact that it's a public institution, we knew we should take a leadership role and look into different alternatives to save money."

More than $7 million in improvements have been completed since then, according to Tarantowicz. Lighting fixtures were outfitted with energy-saving bulbs and a new roof was installed in 2006. The air-conditioning and heating units have also been replaced.

A computer screen now in the library's lobby gives visitors an up-to-the-second calculation of how much solar power is being generated, a fun piece of technology that can also serve as an educational tool for children, Tarantowicz said.

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"I think it's important that children get an education going forward as far as how we're all going to live on this planet and how we're going to reduce consumption on energy any way we can," he said.g Island

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