Educators in the South Colonie Central School District think the future is looking bright when it comes to the electricity bill.
The district has struck a deal with Rensselaer-based Monolith Solar that could see a total of 5,700 solar panels installed on the roofs of its eight schools and the Transportation Department offices by next year. The project is contingent on the award of a New York State Energy Research and Development Authority grant.
It would be “the largest district-wide public school solar installation in New York State to date,” according to Strategic Account Manager Tim Carr of Monolith Solar Associates. The company has similar arrangements with other municipal bodies, including school districts.
Under the proposed agreement, Monolith would install panels and equipment at 11 locations and maintain the equipment for 20 years. The company would then sell the district electricity at an average rate of about 3.5 cents per kilowatt-hour, which is roughly half of what National Grid charges. The system would have about 1.7 megawatts of capacity.
The change could result in savings of $64,000 in the first year of the agreement and $1.7 million over the 20-year lifespan, according to figures provided by the district.
“This is great for our district,” said Board of Education President James Tim Ryan in a statement. “It sounds like a win-win situation for everyone. We look forward to seeing this project move on to a successful completion.”
If the district were to buy the system at retail cost and have Monolith install it, the bill would run about $5 million, according to Carr. By contracting with the company and buying the power from Monolith, South Colonie avoids putting money into the equipment itself.
“There is no capital outlay and they get the immediate benefit,” Carr said. “The financial upside is very high, especially for something like a school district which is very budget driven.”
The Board of Education approved an agreement with Monolith on Tuesday, Aug. 27, pending award of the NYSERDA grant. Monolith is working with the district on the application for funds under the Authority’s New York Sun Competitive Photovoltaic Program. It usually takes 60 to 90 days for the agency to approve grants, according to the district.
The agreement could also lead to educational opportunities, officials said. Carr said in the Schodack Central School District, students tour Monolith’s solar facilities and a group of high school students constructed a solar powered go kart for a project. A monitoring system will let students and faculty know what the system’s energy output is at a glance.
If the grant is approved in the fall, the district would aim for a winter installation. All projects must be installed within eight months of the award to be eligible for the grant money.