Summit School District community solar meeting draws no detractors
Ryan Summerlin September 30, 2012
In the first of three community meetings Summit School District is hosting to explain how proposed solar panels would look and offset electricity usage, only two residents showed up, both to show strong support for the possible project.
The district is trying to gauge public interest in four proposed solar panel sites: the Summit High School fieldhouse, Summit Middle School, the district’s facilities building and Summit Cove Elementary. It’s estimated the new arrays would save the district more than $11,000 in their first year of operation.
“I just want to cheer you guys on,” one man told the school district’s director of business services Mark Rydberg. The man said he has two boys who just graduated from Summit High School. “We always wondered why there weren’t solar panels on the school already.”
Another attendee said he is an Upper Blue Elementary parent, and showed up because he has a passion for sustainability.
The Summit Cove arrays will probably be the most visible, Rydberg said. There will be two primary ground mounts, and then panels on the school’s south-facing roof.
The arrays are expected to offset 100 percent of the electricity used at the four chosen meters, according to Syndicated Solar CEO Justin Pentelute. The Greenwood Village-based company is partnering with Summit County-based Innovative Energy in the proposal.
Students would be able to see solar usage through kiosks set up in the schools and online.
“It goes beyond just money savings. It’s a great educational tool,” said Summit School District Board of Education member Erin Young.
The four sites were chosen after an analysis of all the district’s meters. The selected spots met all the criteria for the kilowatt-per-hour offset needed, as well as space and financial standards.
The district is expected to save more than $800,000 over 20 years, a figure achieved by looking at a 2 percent escalator per year on solar costs, versus electric, which vary year to year; sometimes by 1 percent, and sometimes over 10, Pentelute said.
There is a timeline, if the four are approved: They would need to be installed by June 26 in order to reap the benefits of financial incentives. There is no upfront cost to the district; Syndicated Solar is the developer and manages the financing by creating a fund group, which in turn owns the panels, Rydberg said in mid-September.
At the meeting, Rydberg compared the ownership deal to switching cellphone providers: some of the money would go to Xcel Energy, as it already does, and some would go to the vendor.
The district is not buying into the panels, he said, and it would not be responsible for maintenance.
“It’s their responsibility,” Rydberg said.
Future energy needs will certainly be considered if the current proposal gains the approval of the public and board, but currently, these are the only four sites that meet the criteria, Rydberg said in September.
But, because of the June 26 deadline, there’s a tight timeline should the community and board approve the project.
“There’s a lot of work in order for it to be shovel-ready,” Rydberg said. “There’s a lot of work to be done that could potentially put this off where we get off track.”