09/01/2011 03:20

School for local and international students with socioeconomic challenges prides itself on being at the forefront of technology.
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As 800 boys from all over the world rung in the new school year on Wednesday at Boys Town Jerusalem in Bayit Vagan, with them was a brand-new addition to a school that has been around since Israel’s independence – a rooftop filled with solar panels, absorbing light for electricity and contributing to the country’s grid since July.

The rooftop solar field, which was installed at the end of June after three years of bureaucratic battles, generates about 40 kilowatts per hour, which is sold directly to the Israel Electric Corporation for a feed-in tariff, or a reduction on the school’s monthly electric bill, according to school electrician David Darshan.

The output from the solar panels, which encompass about 500 square meters of rooftop space, is equivalent to about a third of the school’s hourly energy consumption, Darshan told The Jerusalem Post during a visit on Wednesday afternoon.

Meanwhile, a computerized monitoring system allows school officials to view the production of their panels on the Internet with a two-hour delay.

“We know exactly what we’re saving money-wise and carbon emissions-wise,” Yoni Strimber, international development executive of the school, told the Post during the same visit, pointing out a solar powered menorah adjacent to the panels.

The approximate financial savings to the school, according to CEO Natan Tal, is about NIS 12,000 monthly, or currently about 22 percent of the institution’s former electricity bill. More concrete figures will be determined after a year, when annual measurements are available, Strimber said.

Boys Town’s solar panels precede the current photovoltaic installations taking place at 48 public schools and community centers around the city, under the auspices of Moriah Jerusalem Development Company, which are collectively expected to generate a capacity of 2.5 megawatts upon completion in September, according to the firm.

A private institution established by Rabbi Alexander Lichner in 1948, the school is a hub for students of varying socioeconomic statuses, particularly from France, Ukraine, Ethiopia and other Israeli families, who in addition to secular and religious studies, train heavily in computer science, applied engineering and other practical sciences to be used in their careers, oftentimes in the army or air force, Strimber explained. The Boys Town solar roof was actually the vision of Eddie Wolf, the head of public relations and employee of the school for over 30 years.

“We always try to pioneer in certain fields, to show leadership in industry and technology,” said Wolf, who thought of the idea five-anda- half years ago. “We’re trying to raise funds in America now to pay for the big investment on the roof.”

Money for the panels is coming directly from the American Friends of Boys Town Jerusalem, which raises funds for about half of the school’s $8 million budgetary needs, according to Strimber.

While the boys thus far are hardly aware of the presence of the panels above their heads, they will be learning about the project gradually, leading up to an official launch event in December, Strimber said. The student body’s robotics group – which involves boys of all ages – will probably soon begin working on a type of robot that automatically cleans the panels of dust and dirt, something that Darshan currently does manually, he explained.

Meanwhile, the school’s two-year, post-high school applied engineering program, which prepares young men for specific tracks in the army and air force, will likely be assigning one of its students to produce a model tracking device that would best harness the sun’s light according to its direction at different points in the day, Wolf said.

“I would like the school to be involved in a lot more subject matters associated with greening,” he said. “These are things that every school in the country should be teaching their students.”