St. Anthony's in South Huntington installs solar panel roof

Keith Benzaquin, left, Rob Cooke, center, and Adam Keith Benzaquin, left, Rob Cooke, center, and Adam Lella, right, from Green Logic Energy based in Southampton install solar panels on the roof of St. Anthony's High School in Huntington. (June 24, 2013) Photo Credit: Steve Pfost

advertisement | advertise on newsday

Last week, the roof of St. Anthony's High School in South Huntington was blanketed with dozens of cardboard boxes.

Work crews this week will finish the job of unloading the boxes and installing 406 solar panels. Subsidized by a $174,000 rebate from the Long Island Power Authority, St. Anthony's is beginning a three-year plan to go green.

The school's solar panels, which convert sunlight into electrical power, will generate more than 119,000 kilowatt hours annually, enough to power a home for 13 years.

"Francis of Assisi saw the beauty of God in nature in the 13th century, when nature was often viewed as something to be dominated and used," said St. Anthony's principal, Brother Gary Cregan. "Philosophically, we cannot continue to use fossil fuels."

The solar panels, which face south at a 5-degree tilt, will displace 6 million pounds of carbon over their 30-year life span, said Jean-Pierre Clejan, a senior energy consultant at Southampton-based Greenlogic Energy, which designed and installed St. Anthony's system.

"Brother Gary is a visionary for taking advantage of the sunlight," said Clejan, who is overseeing the project. While some companies are turning to solar power for the green of the money they will save, Clejan said, Cregan "cares about the future of mankind."

St. Anthony's joins a growing number of Long Island schools -- including East Islip, Commack, Center Moriches, Smithtown West and Westhampton Beach high schools -- that have turned to solar power in the face of rising energy costs.

The rebate from LIPA helped make the project "a very reasonable thing to tackle," Cregan said.

LIPA has been criticized for its slow response to superstorm Sandy and recently faced allegations of overbilling, but the utility company deserves credit for its "deployment of renewable energy," Clejan said.

LIPA's rebate program has helped to build nearly 6,500 solar installations on Long Island.

"LIPA continues to be a leader in solar and energy efficiency," said Michael J. Deering, LIPA's vice president of environmental affairs. "We are especially proud to work with those nonprofit entities."

Cregan said installing solar panels was particularly important at an educational institution where young people are learning about alternative energies. In one science class, students studied how to create more efficient photovoltaic cells.

"We have to do this to show students we are serious," Cregan said. "Now, it is not just something in a textbook. It's on our roof."

You also may be interested in: