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School solar panel shines

Brebeuf garners praise for energy initiative

LIGHTING IT UP: Trustee Micheal Carnovale and Director of Education Susan LaRosa flip the ceremonial switch to officially launch the solar panel system at St. Jean de Brebeuf high school in Woodbridge this week. (Philip Alves/Vaughan Today)

It’s a development so bright even the Vatican is keeping an eye on it.

Woodbridge’s St. Jean de Brebeuf Catholic High School officially launched its new solar photovoltaic system Monday. The system, which includes five solar panels arranged in the shape of a cross above the school’s main entrance, is the first of its kind in the York Catholic District School Board.

“As I understand it, (the pope and the Vatican) are watching this closely,” Energy Advocate consultant Paul Charbonneau said at Monday’s launch.

The system has a generating capacity of 1.2 kilowatts. That electricity is sold back into Ontario’s electricity grid at a rate of 42 cents per kilowatt hour. Since first being switched on in November, the five solar panels have already earned more than $106.

But the system is more than just a green revenue stream.

“This particular school is becoming famous: famous not just for using photovoltaic technology but famous for helping create a curriculum,” Charbonneau said.

The data generated by the system is incorporated into science, technology, and Canadian and world studies courses at Brebeuf, giving students a firsthand look at leading-edge technology. Live and archived data is available to students and the public at

“We will be studying the impact that solar panel technology has . . . on our environment using real life data,” science student Tharan Thanapal said Monday. “We will also have an opportunity to examine and evaluate the social, economic and environmental benefits of the solar panels.

“Also, we’ll be able to perform an energy audit and create an energy reduction plan to determine if the solar energy could be used effectively to run our school.”

Looking beyond the benefits to his own students, Brebeuf principal Romolo Villani said his school’s five-panel system will become a beacon of inspiration to other schools.

“Our school is the first in doing this and we have a very small system, but think of the possibilities,” he said.

PowerStream chair and Ward 1 councillor Peter Meffe called the project “wonderful” and a positive step that will lead to greater energy conservation.

“We’re very supportive of other agencies and other groups, in particular the students, for their initiative,” he said. “If you can teach the students about green energy, you can bet they’re going to be teaching their parents about it, too.

“Think about the roofs and the buildings that the school board has: it’s an incredible opportunity to see this progress further,” Meffe added. “It’s not just this initiative on its own but what this initiative signifies to the entire board and student population.”

Vaughan Today
In print: March 13, 2009, page 1
Online: March 12, 2009 [link]