It’s lights out for the solar panel array south of Summit Cove Elementary School.
The Summit School District Board of Education held a special meeting Tuesday evening to vote on the future of solar installations in the district.
The discussion centered around the removal of the 348 individual solar panels currently located at the south end of Summit Cove Elementary School.
In the past, community members have expressed concerns about the impact of the solar panel array, and many attendees asked for specifics about the removal costs at Tuesday’s meeting.
The meeting lasted one hour and the agreement passed 6-1, with only director, Alison Casias, voting no.
The school board voted on a settlement with the project partners, Spear Point Energy and Syndicated Solar, which they believe has the best financial return to the district while still meeting construction and rebate deadlines.
The district will pay to downsize the Summit Cove project, which includes removing the south array at Summit Cove Elementary. The planned north array will not be installed. The district will use operating reserves to pay a one-time cost of $245,738. Mark Rydberg, director of business services for Summit School District, said the general reserve is created over time in order to avoid a deficit.
“This is not money we would spend on normal operations,” he said. “It’s for one-time costs, and so it’s not affecting any education spending this year.”
At the meeting, Casias questioned if the high dollar amount was worth the removal.
“$245,000 out of reserves is a lot of money, especially for non-education spending,” she said.
The district will also make a capital purchase for the system constructed south of the high school stadium for $128,266. This system will support 100 percent of the stadium’s annual kilowatt usage and provide average annual savings of $17,600.
Another capital purchase for the system currently installed on Summit Cove’s roof will cost approximately $126,287. This system will support 20 percent of the elementary school’s annual kilowatt usage, with annual savings of $7,900.
The high school stadium project is basically complete, Rydberg said, with limited work left to do on the Summit Cove roof array. The project, including the removal, must be completed by October 1 in order to receive a 10-cent rebate rate from Xcel on the solar power.
However, because the south array removal is so large, the district might have to submit a new application for that location, in which case the rebate rate would most likely be reduced to seven cents.
“We’re not buying textbooks here,” Casias said. “I understand we’re under a time crunch but I’m wondering if we were not, what else would we be doing?”
This was the first meeting involving the projected costs — the estimated numbers were sent out Friday Aug. 30. Communication and information distribution were issues the board faced with this project, both with the initial solar plans and now with the removal decision.
Communications Coordinator Julie McCluskie said emails were sent to parents and a staff newsletter was distributed in order to get the word out about this new revised solar project agreement, as well as multiple press releases.
“The intent was certainly there to communicate with the community, to do a more thorough job than we had,” school board President Margaret Carlson said.
There is also a 12 percent restocking fee to return the solar arrays installed at Summit Cove, a cost included in the $245,000 estimate. Rydberg said the removal timeframe is two or three weeks.
Rydberg said he had no concerns about Spear Point Energy and Syndicated Solar signing the new agreement.
The engineering, procurement and construction contract, as well as all warranties for the solar projects, now belong to the school district and not Syndicated Solar. In buying the contract, the district now has control of the projects. Rydberg said the district will have to contract out to provide operation and maintenance for the systems, but could also train their own staff as well.
The two companies still have the responsibility to install the panels to industry standards. If any lien comes up in the future from work, then Syndicated Solar would be responsible to clear that, Rydberg said.
“We have to make the best decision we can right now, with the information we have,” Carlson said to the board before the vote.