As best I understand the annual Ossining School budgets of recent years and of the upcoming one, the energy costs for fuel oil, natural gas and electricity hover slightly over the $1,000,000 mark with electricity costs taking up just under half of that.
In the overall scheme of the total school budget, it is a relatively small amount. Regardless these costs are bound to increase and in any event the school board and its administration is duty bound to seek ways to keep these costs in check and to cut costs, no matter how slight they may appear to be wherever they can.
In addition, given all the scientific evidence that carbon based fuels has a negative impact on air quality and extreme weather patterns, the school system as a moral force in the community has an obligation to do whatever it can to reduce carbon emissions. One of the ways it could do this at a very low or no cost is to install solar panels at all of the buildings it owns. Here is how it can be done.
While there are numerous grants and municipal bond programs that help local governments pay for their own solar installations. However, grants are not as readily available as they once were and as the school board well knows, bonding is always a contentious issue. Moreover, any savings one gets from solar are not immediate and occur far into the future.
To overcome the upfront investment requirements and long-term payback issues some government entities are increasingly turning to “Power Purchase Agreements” (PPAs). This is a financing device that entices private developers with tax credits and locks down energy costs for their public-sector partners. Esentially theidea is that corporate entities can take tax credits for solar, and public tax-exempt entities can't. PPA's are a way to combine the two so that local governments can benefit intrinsically from tax credits.
Rather than purchasing the system, a school system or other public entity partners with a solar developer and gives them a lease or easement to their roofs. They buy the system, install and maintain it and then the schools buy all the electricity from them at a fixed price over 15 to 25 years. Most large systems are being financing using this model. PPAs are a great way to hedge against raising energy costs as they freeze the price of electricity, potentially for decades. However, a PPA is a complex legal arrangement.
The New Haven Unified School District in Northern California offers a great example of the intrinsic and social value of solar panel use. In early 2007, Conley-Caraballo High School became the first school in AlamedaCounty to receive the majority of its power from an onsite solar power installation. In November of 2007, the School Board approved two more solar installations to be installed on the Kitayama Elementary School and James Logan High School; the second and third schools in the district to “go solar”.
Another instance is the Head-Royce School. It has installed a total of 72kW of solar energy at its campus in Oakland, California, as part of a renovation and green building initiative. Part of the school’s mission is to inspire its students with a strong sense of community and social responsibility, and to demonstrate its own commitment to these ideals.
After years of discussions, the Tenafly , NJ school district is moving on plans to install solar panels at its middle and high schools.The project is aimed at cutting energy costs while adding a new learning component about energy to its curriculum. company that wins the bid will install the system and pay for it. That company will gain various benefits from the solar panels, including tax write-offs and grants that schools are not eligible for. The plan is a win-win for the district because it would not have to spend any money on the panels and the solar company will sell back the energy at a reduced electric rate from what the district now pays.
Another good example is The Wayne, NJ Public School District. It has completed a Solar Photovoltaic Power system across seven of the District’s fourteen schools. The seven schools were selected due to their high amount of southern exposure and low amount of shade and trees. The total project size combined will generate over 3,600,000 kilowatt-hours of renewable energy. The combined systems consist of over 12,000 solar panels, thus offsetting 60% of the seven schools' current electric power usage. The School District did not outlay any capital for the project. The solar supplier, Nautilus Solar Energy, financed the solar systems through a combination of revenues from the sale of the electric output of the solar systems to the District, along with revenues from the sale of solar renewable energy credits (SERCs) in the competitive market, federal tax benefits and investor capital. Under the Power Purchase Agreement financial structure, Nautilus Solar Energy designed, procured, installed, financed, owns, maintains and will operate the solar systems. The District will purchase solar-generated electricity from Nautilus through the solar systems at the seven schools for fifteen years.
Now is the time for the Ossining School District and indeed all of the other government entities in the Village and Town to get serious about solar, wind and water powered electricity at their properties.