2013-04-20 / News

Lakewood approves new solar power contract

By Scott Rawdon

HEBRON- – Lakewood School Board members unanimously agreed to approve an agreement with Solar Advocate Development 20, LLC for installation of a solar panel system.

Board members also unanimously approved a contract with Limbach Company, LLC for the design and installation of an energy conservation improvement project, namely replacing windows in the middle school.

“Now is when the engineers get involved,” said Lakewood Superintendent Jay Gault Tuesday. He said the solar array, may be up and running by the beginning of next school year. “They think it’s doable,” said Gault. “That’s what they’re shooting for.”

The district’s energy consultant, Mark Taylor with SABO Limbach Energy Service, said the plan is to install the solar array and the middle school windows over summer break. He predicted the district would see an immediate savings in energy costs once the array is installed.

Wednesday, Treasurer Glenna Plaisted said the contracts were in the process of being finalized.

In February, board members agreed to begin working with Solar Planet Company on a solar power purchase agreement, or PPA, to purchase roughly 60 percent of the district’s power needs from a Solar Planet-installed solar array.

The agreement revives plans to use the projected savings from the solar project to repay a loan to finance replacement of old and inefficient windows in the middle school.

A year ago, board members unanimously authorized 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 sixseven acres of district property. 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 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.

Solar Planet can pick up the project where Tipping Point dropped it. Taylor has said Solar Planet has sufficient investors and the solar panels are ready to install. Gault believes 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. Gault estimates the district would save roughly $1 million.

In other district news, Gault hopes that no news is good news regarding the district’s May levy attempt, which will actually reduce cost for Lakewood School District residents. Gault said he’s had few calls about the levy and most public comment he’s heard has been positive. “I think people truly understand everything about it,” he said.

Lakewood’s 5.24 mill, five-year emergency renewal levy is set for the May 7 ballot. “Property values in the district have gone up since the 2008 levy renewal. Since emergency levies are for fixed dollar amounts, the millage needed to produce the same fixed dollar amount is less,” said Plaisted previously. The bottom line is, “The taxpayers will be paying less.”

Plaisted explained the full amount of the levy renewal is $2,353,259 but local taxpayers would be paying $2,058,646. The difference, she said, is a $294,613 reimbursement from the state. “If the school district continues to renew this emergency levy the state will continue to pay the tangible personal property reimbursement amount attached to this levy,” said Plaisted. “If the district would not pass this renewal and have to go back for new monies, then the district would not receive this reimbursement from the state.”

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