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Solar panels coming to MacArthur airport

Travelers entering Long Island MacArthur Airport will soon be greeted by an array of solar panels - a demonstration project that town officials hope will spark interest in renewable energy.

The Islip Town board Tuesday accepted the donation of a $90,000 solar panel system from Holbrook-based National Photovoltaics Inc. The 10-kilowatt system, which is expected to generate 12,225 kilowatt hours per year, will offset a small fraction of the airport's energy bill, but it is intended to serve as a model for homes, businesses and municipalities looking to go green, said Islip Councilman John Edwards.

The system comes with a 25-year maintenance and replacement warranty.

Within six months, 54 photovoltaic panels are to be mounted on the south-facing awning near the terminal's two main entrances. A kiosk in the main lobby will show in real time how much energy the panels are generating.

"People visiting the airport can see that, 'Yeah, hey, this works,' " said Edwards, who chairs the town's energy committee. "I think that's one of the primary things we can do on the local government level."

Town officials Tuesday said they could not estimate how much the airport would save on its energy bill, which was $800,000 in 2007 and $860,000 in 2008. The rate the airport pays per kilowatt hour varies, they said.

Marc Redgate, National Photovoltaics president, estimated the panels would save the airport $382,000 over their projected 40-year life, assuming a 6 percent annual energy cost hike.

The company, looking to promote renewable energy, approached MacArthur because of the number of people they would reach there, said regional sales manager James Peck.

"Solar always makes sense, if you don't have a shade problem, and airports don't have a shade problem," he said.

MacArthur Commissioner Teresa Rizzuto said the airport, which serves 2 million people year, has been looking for ways to go green. "This is a good beginning for us," she said.

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