Schools prep for solar power switch

Schools prep for solar power switch

By Ruthann Carr

The Fluvanna School Board decided to take advantage of the sun and voted unanimously on May 8 to harness solar energy.

Soon Sun Tribe Solar will begin putting solar panels on and around the county’s school buildings – at no cost to the schools.

Besides no upfront expense, the move is predicted to save between $4-6 million over the 35-year contract, according to Sun Tribe estimates.

As part of the power purchase agreement, the schools locked in a flat rate for electricity that is lower than the 10 cents per kilowatt hour it pays Dominion Virginia Power.

Superintendent Chuck Winkler began researching ways for the schools to be more environmentally friendly last October.

“This endeavor had a money savings aspect for the taxpayers,” Winkler said. “A few school divisions around Virginia were exploring it. I went to a few sites that had it in place and talked with a number of individuals. When we ran the numbers, it just made sense.”

When Winkler first suggested the project to the School Board, members were skeptical.

Charles Rittenhouse (Cunningham) asked how Sun Tribe made money. “This looks too good to be true,” he said.

Sun Tribe representative Tony Stephan explained the company makes money on the licensing agreements and the agreement with banks that loan it the money for the project.

Sun Tribe will use its in-house engineering and construction teams to design, permit and build the panels. It will own and operate the system for the life of the 35-year contract.

Andrew Pullen (Columbia) had several questions about roof-mounted panels and the effect they’d have on warranties.

After long periods of questions and answers – and a trip to visit Middlesex County Schools, which signed a similar agreement with Sun Tribe two years ago – the board was convinced it was the right way to go.

Shirley Stewart (Rivanna) was particularly impressed with the grant Sun Tribe gives for teachers to learn about solar energy and teach it in the classroom.

Winkler enumerated the benefits he sees, which include money savings back to the school budget, a large educational component and tie-in to the Standards of Learning tests, professional development and resources for continued education offered by Sun Tribe, and possible career and technical education benefits and future employment opportunities for Fluvanna graduates.

Taylor Brown, Sun Tribe solar chief technical officer, said the company was impressed by the amount of study Fluvanna schools put into the decision.

“From the start, Superintendent Winkler and the School Board have been laser-focused on ensuring that this has been a community-focused process – asking tough questions and fighting for real savings of taxpayer dollars. We look forward to continuing to work closely with Superintendent Winkler and his team to power Fluvanna’s schools through renewable energy today and for years to come,” Brown said. “We’re excited by the opportunity to partner with Fluvanna County Public Schools, who are embracing a cleaner energy future while also saving millions that can be used to support educators, facility modernization and classroom instruction throughout the district.”

Sun Tribe estimates that 100 percent of the energy needs of Carysbrook Elementary, West Central Primary, Central Elementary, and Fluvanna Middle School will be met. It will also provide 61 percent of the energy needed to power Fluvanna County High School.

Winkler said the schools hope to have Central and Carysbrook operational by next January or February, with the middle and high schools to follow about a year later.

Fluvanna joins other Virginia school districts going solar, including: Arlington, Augusta, King William, Middlesex, Powhatan, Richmond City and Westmoreland.

“I’m certainly a fan of alternative energy sources, especially solar, and I was aware of other schools systems that were installing solar panels through various articles and publications, but until Sun Tribe made its presentation, I had no idea that we could save so much money in the coming years and that they could provide such an offset from the grid,” Pullen said.

“Sun Tribe did an excellent job explaining everything to the board and answering our questions. I admittedly was hesitant, mainly because we were mistakenly told that we’d save so much money through the contract with Trane that the county entered into, but after much research, I was excited to make the motion to enter into a contract with Sun Tribe,” Pullen continued. “I also excited to see the career and technical education opportunities that will be extended to our students through this project. Self-sufficiency, protecting the environment and saving taxpayers millions of dollars is a win on all fronts in my opinion.”

Winkler addressed the Trane contract in an email, saying: “Trane installed all new HVAC equipment in Central and Fluvanna Middle School. They installed new LED lighting in all of our buildings. They installed new HVAC controls that are digitally web-based in all of our schools to help increase energy efficiencies.

“Trane’s original projections showed significant savings over a five-year period, but they indicated their savings in fuel gallons and kilowatts,” Winkler continued. “The county calculated those rates into dollars using a formula that wasn’t entirely accurate given our current reduced fuel rates. Therefore, over a five-year period we have not seen the actual dollars in savings. However, we have seen the gallons and kilowatt savings as projected.”

Related Posts

dewi88 cuanslot dragon77 cuan138 enterslots rajacuan megahoki88 ajaib88 warung168 fit188 pusatwin pusatwin slot tambang88 mahkota88 slot99 emas138