SOUTH WINDSOR — The Board of Education is looking to generate clean energy and save on utilities by installing solar panels on one or more school roofs.
The board voted unanimously last week to pursue the solar opportunity, authorizing town finance officials to facilitate the school system’s participation in an April energy auction that allows organizations with qualified renewable energy projects to benefit financially from energy credits.
The auction is run by the Zero Emission Renewal Energy Credit, an Eversource Energy-sponsored program that emerged in 2012 and may expire after this year, Director of Finance and Operations Chris Chemerka wrote in a March letter to Superintendent Kathleen Carter.
South Windsor has four viable options for solar panels on roofs, officials said: South Windsor High School and the Orchard Hill, Eli Terry, and Philip R. Smith elementary schools.
As part of the school system’s 10-year master plan to replace all of its elementary schools with new buildings, Philip R. Smith and Eli Terry are expected to be complete in 2020. The new Orchard Hill opened in 2017.
“Now that we are well into the elementary facilities plan and the high school roof project will be complete during the ZREC timeframe, we are in a good position to take advantage of the ZREC program before it expires completely,” she wrote.
Chemerka will also sign a contract with TitanGen, a Titan Energy New England company, which will serve as a consultant and pay the fee for South Windsor to participate in the auction. In return, TitanGen would receive a percentage of the overall project costs.
The recommendation to sign a contract comes from the town’s Energy Committee chair, Steven Wagner, who met TitanGen representatives at a convention last year and found that their “business model is a good fit for our town’s needs,” he said in a March letter to Chemerka.
TitanGen General Manager Adam Teff, explaining the process to the board last week, said the company would assist the town with identifying potential solar energy projects and estimating the amount needed to complete them, and submit an application for the auction. That application is non-binding, representatives said.
If the projects move forward, the third party that wins the bid would own, maintain, and operate the solar panels, selling energy back to South Windsor, Teff said.
There are “zero out-of-pocket” costs for the school system, he added, and utilizing solar energy is expected to bring “fairly significant” savings to the town.
Carter explained that the solar panels would not be part of the new school developments’ budgets, and would happen after they’re complete in 2020.
She added that project architects ensured the buildings would be fit to have solar panels installed.