A sunny future is in the works for Summit School District. At a meeting Tuesday, the board of education voted unanimously to approve a project that would place solar panels at several sites throughout the district.
Summit Cove Elementary would host the largest array, with ground-mounted panels in two locations, as well as several roof panels. The arrays on the ground will range from seven to 12 feet in height. Panels will be mounted on the roof of the district's facilities building, as well as at Summit Middle School and the Summit High School field house.
Now that the project has been approved by the school board, the attorneys from the district and Syndicated Solar will sit down to finalize and sign a Power Purchase Agreement (PPA).
Once the PPA is signed, it will be up to Syndicated Solar and Summit County-based Innovative Energy to start the planning and developing phases of the project. This includes arranging permits from city and state, planning the design and engineering aspects and coordinating construction schedules.
"The school district has a very limited role," said district director of business services Mark Rydberg about the planning stages. "Once we sign the PPa, it's their [Syndicated's] responsibility."
One aspect of the PPA is the provision that Syndicated Solar and Innovative Energy have the option to pull out of the project at any time between now and the June 26 project deadline. According to Rydberg, however, that isn't likely.
"They're going to know fairly quickly that they're either going to do it or not," Rydberg said. Most likely any changes would be minor, having to do with design or engineering.
"We all want the project to go through," said Michelle Zimmerman, vice president of operations at Innovative Energy. "I can't foresee anything that would make it stop once we get the design in place."
When debating whether to approve the project, the school board took into consideration the opinion of the community. Three committee meetings were held regarding the project, and Summit Cove principal Crystal Miller met with homeowners, parents and neighbors of the school to gauge their level of support.
At Tuesday's meeting, Summit Cove fourth-grader Quinn Weinberger spoke up for his classmates regarding the project.
"I think our school should have solar energy because it's clean energy, a renewable-energy source," Weinberger said, adding that his teachers would be teaching the science behind the solar technology. He had also gathered a list of signatures from his classmates, all in support of the panels.
Richard Weight, a homeowner in Summit Cove, also threw his support behind the project.
"Our family has supported solar energy, we've invested in solar in our house through Innovative Energy, so we're here to support this proposal," Weight said. "We think it's important that there is a community leader for alternative energy, [and] we think it's a great opportunity for the school district to be that leader for all of Summit County."
The support from the community in addition to the positive factors of increased educational opportunities, reduction of CO2 emissions and potential financial savings served to influence the board's decision in favor of the project.
"It's both a qualitative and a quantitative decision," said school Boardmember J. Kent McHose, referring to the educational and technological aspects of the project. "We feel it will be to the benefit of the Summit School District."
"We feel that it is the right thing to do for the school, and we're thrilled to be a part of it," Zimmerman said of Innovative Energy. "We're excited for the school to get the best product possible, and thrilled that (the solar project) can be a part of the site and a part of the curriculum."