2013-02-23 / News

Lakewood to pursue solar power again

By Scott Rawdon

HEBRON – Lakewood School Board members unanimously agreed Feb. 13 to begin working with the Solar Planet Company to derive roughly 60 percent of the district’s power needs from solar panels.

“Is it cost effective?” asked board student representative Tyler Knepper. “We are very comfortable that this is going to be beneficial to the district,” said board president Judy White.

“If we don’t look down the road, we may make a mistake in not doing this,” said board member Bill Gulich. “It would be good if we could get ahead in the game.

“This is very forward thinking on this,” said White. “We’ve done our homework. We’ve spent a lot of time on this. It’ll save us money.”

The vote revives plans to purchase solar-generated power and use the projected savings to replace old and inefficient windows in the middle school. House Bill 264 has allowed districts since 1985 to borrow money without voter approval to make energy improvements provided the projects generate enough energy savings to repay the loans.

Last year April, board members unanimously authorized Superintendent Jay Gault to enter into a 20-year power purchase agreement with Dublin based Tipping Point Renewable Energy. Though the solar project didn’t require a cash investment from the district, it would cover six-seven acres of district property. It was sized at 1,000 kWe, with 295 kWe (1,284 4’x8’ modules) behind the intermediate school and 705 kWd (3,068 4’x8’ modules) south of the high school student parking lot. The project’s economics were based on federal tax credits for high-income investors and renewable energy mandates. Tipping Point was unable to secure enough investors to fund the project and backed out of their contract proposal. When the district secured an attractive electricity price on the open market, it appeared that solar power would be on hold indefinitely.

The district’s energy consultant, Mark Taylor with SABO Limbach Energy Service, said Columbus based Solar Planet can pick up the project where Tipping Point dropped it. Taylor said Solar Planet has sufficient investors and the solar panels are in stock and ready to install. Gault added that open market electricity prices are now expected to increase significantly. He said the prediction is that within three years, the open market price will be more than seven cents per kilowatt-hour. The district currently pays 4.565 cents per kilowatt-hour through June. The Village of Hebron agreed Feb. 13 to a 15-month open market contract with AEP Energy at 4.9 cents per kilowatt-hour.

Gault said the solar array would produce 60 percent of the district’s electricity with Solar Planet maintaining it for 25 years. He estimates the district would save roughly $1 million during that 25- year period.

“The board approved for (Gault) and I to proceed with getting a contract with Solar Planet at the last board meeting,” said Treasurer Glenna Plaisted. “We do not have a contract yet.” She said Taylor was out of town last week on personal business but is back this week. “So, I would anticipate we’ll start working on that this week,” said Plaisted.

In other district news:

• This year’s Future City team placed fifth overall in the state and won three special awards: Best Transportation, Best Architecture, and Best Use of Energy. Teacher and Future City mentor Pamela Hundley told board members that Future City is a competition for sixth, seventh and eighth grade students held in Columbus each January. Students design a city that’s placed 150 years in the future. The winner at the state level then competes in Washington DC in February during Engineers Week. “This competition gives students the opportunity to learn about engineering, technology, research, teamwork, public speaking and more,” she said. Hundley said there are several requirements, including researching and writing a 700 to 1,000 word essay.

This year’s topic was “rethink runoff.” The team designed clean solutions to manage storm water pollution. “We must also create a city on SimCity software that is 150 years into the future, has a population of 50,000 or more and many other requirements including taxes lower than 8 percent, and a balanced budget,” said Hundley. Students built a scale model of the city and presented it to two panels of engineer judges for overall judg- ing and several teams of engineer judges for special awards. The presenting team also had to be prepared to answer any questions the judges may have concerning any aspect of the city.

The students named the city Bellissimo Posto and located it in the southernmost canton of Ticino in Switzerland, along the Ticino River upstream from Lake Maggiore.

Hundley said all materials, costumes, model, and presentation boards must cost less than $100. The Lakewood crew spent approximately $75.

Team Members included Shelby Graham, Nick Novotny, Makenna Riley, Blaine Hafen, Travis Brailley, Justin Halter, Sara Farson, John Hoffman, Brittany Foster, Jimmy Morrison Chloe Nelson, Nick Andujar, Will Karr, Logan Newhouse, Cameron Kyle, Jacob Daignault, and Matt Marmon. The engineer mentor was Holly Graham with HarTech Technologies.

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