Deliberations over whether to install solar panels at several district schools continued Tuesday evening at the board of education meeting. The Summit School District has been looking into the possibility of installing solar panels in four sites - the Summit High School fieldhouse, Summit Middle School, the district's facilities building and Summit Cove Elementary.
Discussion revolved around two main factors - the financial value and the educational value of the project.
The district has already saved money by installing higher energy-efficient lamps and light ballasts in 2011. Though previously predicted to save large amounts of money, further research seems to reveal that the financial impact of the solar panels may not be much.
"This isn't going to make or break our utility bill. It's not going to create this huge savings," said Mark Rydberg, director of the district's business services.
The difficulty with the solar panel savings is that the district must set an optimal solar production level. If usage falls below or rises above the optimal level, then further payments will be due to the solar company. They key (and difficulty) is to determine the optimal production level, which is set by the number of panels arrayed at each site.
Though the financial savings may not be significant, the panels are guaranteed to have a positive environmental impact, reducing emissions of 600,000 pounds of CO2 into the atmosphere.
"I think that's huge," said Summit Cove principal Crystal Miller. "I think that's our kids' future. ... This is the chance to say we're going to do something in our own backyard."
The solar arrays also offer a unique educational component, which some feel offsets the lackluster financial aspect.
"That's something that you can't really buy," said school Boardmember Erin Young.
If the project is approved, the deadline for finished construction will be June 26, which is a tight timeline considering the approaching winter months.
The board decided to continue follow-up research questions before making a final decision. A vote of whether or not to approve the solar panels is planned for the next meeting, Nov. 13.