Public School Board Signs $6-Million Solar Power Deal
Categories: Solar Power
Schools are now trying to get into the solar power bandwagon and the Greater Essex County District School Board will literally be pulling money out of the sky after announcing a 20-year deal worth about $6 million to lease school roof space for solar panel use.
The board will lease the roofs of 25 schools to the Toronto-based Solar Income Fund. It’s expected to generate between $250,000 and $300,000 annually for the board depending on the amount of sunshine each year.
“It’s an attractive deal because it’s so costly to install panels for 25 schools,” said Kathy Quenneville, the board’s energy and environmental officer.
Vice-principal Paula Tullio stands in front of Dr. David Suzuki Public School on Wednesday, Dec. 16, 2015, one of many locations where the public school board has solar panel projects.
“It’ll definitely benefit the board.”
Solar panels will be installed this month at Windsor’s Bellewood and McWilliams elementary schools with the remaining projects being completed by the end of March 2016.
Riverside, Belle River, Herman and Massey secondary schools will be getting panels along with 21 elementary schools.
When the 18,414 panels have been installed, they’re expected to produce 6,390 megawatts of energy annually.
“That’ll be enough to power a town of 600 homes for a whole year,” Quenneville said.
Under terms of the deal, the electricity produced will be feed into the province’s power grid under the Ontario Power Authority Feed-in-Tariff and MicroFit program. The public board gets a percentage of the proceeds paid to Solar Income Fund by the province.
Mississauga-based FrankenSolar Americas will install the solar panels.
The entire project was put out for tender earlier this year.
“The schools chosen for panels underwent a structural assessment,” Quenneville said.
“They had to be able to support the panels and ballasting.”
This isn’t the board’s first foray into the renewable energy field.
Currently the public board has solar panel projects at Tecumseh Vista (100 kW), Sandwich (10kW) and Dr. David Suzuki Elementary School (38kW). There are also two wind turbines at Suzuki, which produce a combined 7.4kW.
However, those projects are owned outright by the board.
“They only generate a small amount for the board,” said Quenneville, who was hired to fill her newly created position in August.
“This deal is a much better option for us.”
Quenneville said the solar panels are a good fit with the board’s energy management plans.
While they won’t get any price discounts on the electricity produced from their schools, the power produced will help reduce the board’s carbon footprint.
“We’ll pay for the electricity, but it’s likely will be consuming what’s produced on the roof,” Quenneville said. “That’ll be clean, renewable energy.”
The board will also use the new solar power agreement to augment environmental education.
As part of the deal, Solar Fund will provide dashboards at each location so students and staff can track in real time the amount of power the panels are producing.
The deal is another step in a series of environmental programs the public board has pursued to reduce its energy consumption.
The switch to more efficient LED lighting, the largest expense in the energy budget, saw the board reduce electricity consumption by over 2.3 million kilowatt hours.
“In January we’ll do our second energy conservation challenge that’s aimed at reducing the consumption of electricity and water,” Quenneville said.
“We had 49 schools and administration participate last year from January to June and we collectively saved 844,000 kilowatts and 20,130 cubic metres of water. That translated into a savings of $200,000 for the board.”