School Committee Meeting on Solar panels

Belmont, MA – At the Nov. 20 meeting, the School Committee moved that the School Department enter into negotiations with Broadway Electric of Boston for the installation of solar electric generating panels on the roof of the Wellington Elementary School.

Co-chair of the Energy Committee, Roger Colton, gave a presentation on solar panel installation at the Belmont Public Schools.

Colton went over the solar procurement process, explaining the procurement process is done through a PPA (purchase power agreement) in which the schools would obtain solar panels through the investment of the developer; the schools, in return, would buy solar output from the panels. The schools can buy the remainder of their electricity needs from the Belmont Municipal Light Department. The solar developer would keep all government tax subsidies and SRECs (Solar Renewable Energy Certificates or Solar Renewable Energy Credits).

Belmont MA School Committee Meeting on Solar panelsColton said since the Energy Committee released a request for proposal for the Belmont schools in July, the received three bids as of August from Broadway Electric, Industrial Roof Incorporation (IRC) and SolSolutions. The Energy Committee interviewed the three firms and moved forward with the selection of Broadway Electric.

The Energy Committee decided to go with Broadway Electric because the firm is local, well established and has considerable solar credentials, said Colton.

The firm is also multi-faceted.

“Going into this process, the committee first thought it would be best select a solar specialist,” said Colton. “But then we considered if something were to happen to the solar market, Broadway Electric would surely still be around, which means we don’t run into the risk of having to contract with another company. Broadway Electric has been around for 70 years and will continue to be around no matter what happens to the [solar] market.”

Broadway Electric also offered the best price.

“Broadway Electric is the only firm that could offer a price to the Belmont Public Schools that was less than the discounted Belmont Municipal Light Department price,” said Colton.

Broadway Electric offered $0.08150 per kWh while the Belmont Municipal Light Department currently offers $0.0871 per kWh.

Broadway Electric also has immediate access to financing, which, according to Colton, is beneficial for a number of reasons.

“Broadway Electric works exclusively with an independent financing firm, which demonstrates to us that because they have a reliable source of funding, that their financer is confident in them as a company,” said Colton. “It also suggests that they receive their funding at a discounted price.”

Colton also said the Energy Committee has learned throughout this process that the installation of solar panels relies heavily on the condition of the roofs; the primary factor is the age and condition.

Colton reported the condition of the Belmont Public School’s roofs, particularly Belmont High School’s, are in poor condition.

Wellington Elementary School is the only school that is currently solar ready, said Colton.

According to Colton, the Butler, Burbank, Winn Brook and Chenery roofs are too old to be solar ready, yet too new to economically merit replacement or rehabilitation.

The installation of solar panels at the Wellington is a break-even financial proposition – the installation is not expenditure to the School Department – and the savings would continue over 20-years, said Colton.

According to Colton, the installation actually provides some price stability for Belmont Public School’s budget purposes; the Wellington’s solar electricity will not be affected by the inclusion of capital costs of a new substation; the Belmont Municipal Light Department’s decision to eliminate or reduce subsidies; unforeseen future cost increases in carbon fuels; and potential future costs of environmental compliance. The installation also shows a commitment to reduce Belmont Public School’s carbon footprint by producing 23 percent of electricity used at the Wellington, said Colton.

Following Colton’s presentation, School Committee member Laurie Slap asked how long the installation process generally takes.

Colton said all the proposals he received included a timeline with a completion date before the end of the school year, approximately six to eight months.

Kingston also pointed out that a few other concerns may slow the installation process, such as considering the safety of students and prohibiting construction during class time.

“But the process entirely depends on the Wellington Building Committee,” added Colton.

School Committee member Kevin Cunningham asked how this installation process would impact the current soundproofing project.

Colton said, in short, it’s too soon to say.

“If the School Committee moved that the School Department enter into negotiations with Broadway Electric, that would simply mean that Broadway Electric would become a player in working with the Wellington Building Committee to figure out how the two activities would proceed together,” said Colton. “Of course there would be overlap in those two activities. My understanding is when working on a brand new school that is solar ready, the installer delivers and installs the panels, which is about a weekends worth of work. Then it’s a matter of two or three people actually setting them up. But again, the point is we want to have Broadway Electric and the Wellington Building Committee working together.”

The School Committee moved that the School Department enter into negotiations with Broadway Electric for the installation of solar panels on the roof of the Wellington Elementary School.

One Response to School Committee Meeting on Solar panels

  1. Chang Tsukiyama says:

    If you want to make your own solar power to capture the energy for heating its easy to do if you can find a solar collector, which is anything that attracts the heat from the sun in a concentrated amount, such as glass or clear plastic. Getting into your car that has sat out in the hot sun all day long can be extremely hot and you have to roll down your windows to cool it off inside. That is because the glass has attracted the sun and the objects in your car, including your seats, have trapped the heat not allowing it to escape. When you roll your windows down you are allowing the heat to escape causing your car to cool down. The same thing is true about greenhouses. The glass or clear plastic can attract the sun and not allow it to escape causing the greenhouse to maintain the heat for the plants to grow effectively.

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