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Rooftop Solar Panels Coming To District Schools This Summer

The board expects an aggregate savings of approximately $2.3 million over 15 years.

The Holmdel Board of Education unanimously awarded a contract Wednesday night to place solar panels on the roofs of all four public schools.

The power purchase agreement with Hudson Energy Solar of Ramsey to install a 1.912 megawatt system is projected to save the district an aggregate of approximately $150,000 a year, or $2.3 million over the term of the 15-year contract.

"It's more money we can spend on educating kids," said Board President Barbara Garrity.

Currently the district's current utility rate is 17.2 cents per kilowatt hour. Hudson Energy Solar Corp., the low bidder, said they could erect, maintain and generate energy on the rooftops at the company's expense and sell the power back to Holmdel district for 10.4 cents per kilowatt hour.

For months, the board had been discussing the not-to-be-ignored savings available through alternative energy systems such as photovoltaic solar panels, canopies and ground mounts. They listened to suggestions from architect, Kevin M Settembrino of Red Bank. From the beginning, aesthetics was a concern for several members who wanted to preserve the look of Holmdel's Village Elementary School, Indian Hill School, and Satz-High School complex.

The board advertised several scenarios to 82 firms, all of which included roof-mounted panels, two which added canopies at the bus loading areas, and another that included township buildings, to see what the market would bring. But in the end, the best energy purchase deal by far was the one that proposed rooftop-only solar panels to the four schools, to some relief for Board Member Dennis Pavlik, the chair of the buildings and grounds committee. "You are not going to be able to see them from the ground," he said.

The contract with Hudson Energy Solar assumes a power price annual escalator of 2.75% and a "conservative" utility escalator of 2.2%. Hudson is currently financing similar projects with the Toms River, Teaneck and North Warren Boards of Education.

The solar panels have a 25-year guarantee. At the end of the 10 years, the district can purchase the solar panel system at $3,722,000. At the end of 15 years, it can be purchaed at "market value." If the district wishes, it can re-sign another contract, or ask Hudson to dismantle it from the roofs.

The board's vote was to allow the district architect to submit the plan to the  state Dept. of Education for approval.

Installing the Tennessee-made panels and New Jersey-made racks could take 90-120 days, said Alan Houghton of Johnson Controls, which will be installing the panels. The fully ballasted, non-penetrating roof mount system is safe in windy or heavy snowy conditions, he said. A locked, fenced-in electrical room will be installed on each of the school grounds.

Robert Way January 28, 2012 at 02:55 AM
"It's more money we can spend on educating kids,"... I was kinda hoping for a comment like "hey, here is a bunch of money we could give back to the taxpayer" but instead it is the usual notion based on the false premise that more money equals better education and smarter kids. I absolutely want to applaud The Board for pursuing efficiencies and this obviously seems like one but it is still a disappointment that the savings from reduced energy charges are in theory spent already.

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