ConVal School Board recommends solar array warrant article

  • The ConVal School Board voted unanimously to recommend a warrant article that would develop a rooftop solar array at the high school. Staff photo by Abbe Hamilton—

  • ConVal student Zoe Werth speaks in favor of the proposed solar warrant article that would develop a rooftop solar array at the high school. Staff photo by Abbe Hamilton

  • The ConVal School Board voted unanimously to recommend a warrant article that would develop a rooftop solar array at the high school. Staff photo by Abbe Hamilton—

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 1/22/2020 5:08:48 PM

The ConVal School Board unanimously recommended the warrant article Tuesday that would green light the development of a rooftop solar array on the high school.

The warrant article specifies that the proposed 300-kilowatt project would be operated by the ReVision Energy solar company, which would assume all costs of the project and provide the school district the option of a buyout, to capitalize on additional energy savings, after six years of operation.

Members of the public filled the seats of the school board meeting Tuesday night with many students and community members speaking in favor of the project prior to the vote.

“It would be a really awesome thing if we could have solar panels at ConVal,” ConVal student Lena LaFleur said, citing the environmental friendly initiatives her earth and space science class was currently discussing. “I really support this, and hope that you guys will support this as well.”

“Whenever we are presented with an opportunity to both save money and reduce our greenhouse gas emissions, the question can’t be ‘why should we?’ but ‘why shouldn’t we?’ With the proven success of Peterborough’s [Power Purchase Agreement] and solar array, we can’t think of a reason not to lend our support to this project – and we hope you agree,” the Peterborough Select Board wrote, in a letter in support of the project that was read aloud at the meeting.

“We’re charged with the education of our children first and foremost,” School Board Chair Stephan Morrissey said before the vote. “Projects such as this are not quite in the purview of that mandate.”

He added the board by and large favors solar projects if they make economic sense and involve a negotiation that works to the benefit of the district and taxpayers. He reminded members of the public that the board did agree to deviate from the district’s policy and allow ReVision to be listed as a sole source provider for the project. 

The board also voted in unanimous support of a warrant article that would create a capital reserve fund specifically for alternative energy initiatives or energy efficiency projects in the District. The fund would be used in the event of an eventual buyout of the solar array.

“If we don’t start saving for it, it won’t be a possibility,” Board member Katherine Heck said.

Several members of the Peterborough Energy Committee used their time allotment to address some misconceptions about the project. For one, Peterborough resident Anne Huberman said, ReVision will bear the costs of the feasibility study for the project. In a “Frequently Asked Questions” document the committee compiled, they note that the Letter of Intent for the project  states the structural review will be completed by ReVision prior to the March 10 vote and that if the vote fails, the letter of intent automatically terminates, with no costs passed on to the district.

Committee member Dori Drachman spoke to the question of whether the panels would increase snow removal costs.

“ReVision says if the roof is deemed to be weak enough for snow to be removed, it won’t be approved by an engineer to move forward,” she said, adding that the feasibility study stands to give the school information it currently lacks about its roof’s load bearing capacity, regardless of whether it’s determined to be able to support a solar array. That information could save the school money by eliminating unnecessary snow removal activity, she said.

The warrant article is set to be voted on on March 10, during the Annual School Meeting.

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