‘A momentous occasion’

Solar panels to be installed in all CNMI public schools by next year
Posted on Oct 08 2021
Solar Energy System Launch Ceremony

Guests, including Gov. Ralph DLG Torres; acting Education commissioner Eric M. Magofna; Board of Education chair Andrew L. Orsini; and Commonwealth Utilities Corp. board member and former BOE chair Janice A. Tenorio, gather around some of the solar panels in yesterday’s “Solar Energy System Launch Ceremony.” (JOSHUA SANTOS)

Right now, five states are recognized all over the United States for their widespread use of solar energy in their public schools. By next year, the CNMI will hopefully be joining this prestigious group, with the planned installation of solar energy systems in all public schools in the Commonwealth.

The CNMI Public School System launched yesterday at Marianas High School its solar energy system installation project for all of the CNMI’s public schools, made possible via a power purchase agreement between PSS and Micronesia Renewable Energy, Inc. The project is being billed not only as a milestone project for PSS, but also as a significant achievement for the CNMI and Micronesia region.

MRE chief operations officer Jeffrey Voacolo said in his remarks during the event that solar power installations in schools have risen by 139% since 2014 and there are currently 7,332 K-12 schools using solar power nationwide.

Currently, the top five U.S. states with public school systems leading the way in terms of solar energy are California, New Jersey, Arizona, New Hampshire, and Indiana, Voacolo said. Once all solar panels are installed in all PSS schools, Voacolo said the CNMI will be joining this group very soon.

Voacolo said that he and MRE have recently been getting calls from the U.S. Department of Energy, Solar Energy Industries Association, and global companies who “all have eyes on this project” and lauded PSS for its commitment to reducing fossil fuel consumption in the long-term.

“It’s just a phenomenal feat, and it’s really going to put the CNMI and PSS on the map. This project will be showcased not only throughout Micronesia, but throughout the world,” he said. “…There is no better way to educate the youth of the CNMI to become productive citizens in a global society than by eliminating the need to burn fossil fuels for energy. …Congratulations to PSS and congratulations to the CNMI. This is a milestone project, and we [are] proud to be a part of it.”

In an interview after the event, acting Education commissioner Eric M. Magofna said that yesterday was a “momentous occasion for PSS,” adding that the system-wide installation of solar panels will have no initial costs for PSS as outlined in its power purchase agreement with MRE.

Through the agreement, MRE will fund all installation costs, and PSS will only be responsible for the cost of solar power consumed once all panels are installed. Magofna said that PSS and MRE will be working closely, and he predicts that all public schools will have solar panels installed by next year.

“Today is a very momentous occasion for PSS. We are so excited that we’re finally getting solar power panels for all [public] schools in the CNMI. This will greatly reduce our utility bills, decrease our dependency on costly fossil fuels, and this new solar energy project can be used an educational tool for our students in the CNMI,” said Magofna.

Saipan Tribune reported Wednesday that, according to Magofna, PSS will incur energy savings amounting to more than $1 million per year through its use of solar energy.

Other guests at yesterday’s ceremony included Gov. Ralph DLG Torres; Lt. Gov. Arnold I. Palacios; Magofna; Board of Education chair Andrew L. Orsini; Commonwealth Utilities Corp. board member and former BOE chair Janice A. Tenorio; and several lawmakers.

Joshua Santos | Reporter
Joshua Santos is a Mount Carmel School AlumKnight and University of Florida Gator Grad with a passion for writing. He is one of Saipan Tribune’s newest reporters. Josh enjoys golf, chess, and playing video games with friends in his spare time. Reach out to him @rarebasedjosh on all socials.
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