With a congratulatory commission ceremony and a quick pull of a lever, the Newcomerstown Exempted Village School District's solar project became a reality last Tuesday.

Elected officials from local, state and national governments, as well as school board members, students and representatives from various companies which supplied support to the solar project were all on-hand to officially commission the Newcomerstown Schools' solar project.

"This is a great opportunity," said Newcomerstown Schools' Superintendent Jeff Staggs. "We challenge the students to think outside the box. Without Pat (Pat Cadle, West School principal) in this situation ... this would not have happened. He went outside the box of his principal duties."

Tuscarawas County Commissioner Chris Abbuhl said the ceremony was an historic event.

"This is an excellent example of team leadership," Abbuhl said. "We are a witness to a dream fulfilled. They have set an example for school districts in Ohio.

"We truly appreciate all the hard work and effort that made this possible," Abbuhl said. "Thank you for the vision and for setting the standards for other schools in innovative technology."

The project, which includes solar panels on the West School grounds and atop the high school roof, has approximately 896 solar panels in all. The West School generates 68 kilowatts of power which is enough to power 17 homes and the high school produces 131 kilowatts of power or enough to power 32 homes, according to Gregory Kuss, president of SolarVision LLC.

"This is one of the easiest communities to work with," Kuss said about the solar project. "We're really happy."

The $1.2 million entire project comes at no cost to the district. The solar panels are actually leased to SolarVision which will pay 15 percent of the school district's electricity bill over the next 20 years. In terms of dollars, it will save the district $25,000 a year.

The solar panels were installed by Dovetail Solar and Wind and entire project was financed through First Merit Bank.

"You're the ones that will make the world better but you have to be willing to work to get there," Cadle said. "That's what school is ... it's learning.

"This was a lot of people working together," he said. "Thank you to the community. They've been very accepting."

State Representative Josh O'Farrell and State Senator Jason Wilson presented Superintendent Staggs with a commendation from the 128th General Assembly congratulating the district on the solar project.

"Today is the day that new and brighter sun began to shine on Newcomerstown and Tuscarawas County," U.S. Congressman Zack Space said. "You should be really proud of what you've done here."

The lever to officially "start-up" the solar panels was flipped by West School student Alaina McCort. McCort's essay was selected as the winner in a contest that asked why she should be able to flip the switch on the project.

Construction on the new wind turbine, which is also part of the solar project at Newcomerstown schools, was scheduled to begin Oct. 6 at the school complex.

Niki Wolfe/Newcomerstown News

Fourth grade students Candace Hoffman and Adam Lenhoff demonstrate how energy from wind can be used to operate the wind turbine that plays music. West School Principal Pat Cadle assists the students with the microphone during the solar project commission ceremony Oct. 5.

Niki Wolfe/Newcomerstown News

West School fifth grade students demonstrate how solar energy can be used to operate this solar-powered elevator during the solar project commission ceremony Oct. 5.

Niki Wolfe/Newcomerstown News

SolarVision LLC President Gregory Kuss, c, presents an aerial view of the Newcomerstown High School solar panel project to NHS Principal Tim Sherman, l, while West School Principal Pat Cadle, r, looks on. The aerial pictures were presented to the principals during the solar panel commission ceremony Oct. 5 in the high school gymnasium.