March 26, 2009 at 4:57 pm

Plymouth

District hopes to take stimulus and go green

Projects could create jobs, save $2M a year, say school officials

Plymouth-Canton Schools plans to apply for $130 million in grants to implement green projects across the district. (Velvet S. McNeil / The Detroit News)

PLYMOUTH -- Covered walkways on the Plymouth-Canton high school campus would do more than keep kids out of the rain -- they're part of the district's plan to tap economic stimulus funds for projects that could save $2 million annually on energy.

The walkways would be covered with solar panels used to produce electricity and heat water for showers and cooking. And they would feature turbines to capture the wind and convert it to energy.

Officials recently unveiled their plan to get in on the economic recovery bonanza by applying for $130 million in grants for the walkways, as well as a plethora of projects including a new "green" building to replace Central Middle School, built in 1917. Solar panels and energy efficient lighting would be installed at schools across the 19,000-student district.

If fully implemented, the district would produce enough electricity to power the equivalent of 2,000 homes, officials say.

"The president and the governor have said they would look more favorably on projects with a renewable energy component," district spokesman Frank Ruggirello said.

"You have to be ahead of the game or you're going to be left out in the cold."

The plan, which was recently submitted to the state Department of Education, could create as many as 500 jobs, according to the district. It will be implemented as the money comes in from state and local grants, Superintendent Craig Fiegel said Wednesday.

"If there's money available through the stimulus package to get these things in place, it will save us money in the long run," Fiegel said. "We've identified projects that if we have the money to do will save us money in the long run. That's $2 million we can put back into the classroom."

The plan was designed by Ann Arbor architect Damian Farrell and Reynold Hendrickson, manager of Ann Arbor-based StarPak LLC, a solar company. It was recently unveiled to parents.

Gillian Marceau, who has two children in the district, said kids would learn why green energy is important. Information about the weather and how much energy is being generated would appear on flat screen TVs for children to view.

"It is a forward thinking win-win situation, for the environment and the school district," said Marceau, of Canton.

You can reach Karen Bouffard at (734) 462-2206 or kbouffard@detnews.com">kbouffard@detnews.com.