IW school board awards solar contract

Published 10:47 pm Friday, January 31, 2020

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Isle of Wight County’s school board received four responses to a request for proposals it had issued earlier this school year for the installation of solar panels on its schools, and, on Jan. 15, voted unanimously to award a contract to Sigora Solar for the project.

According to Lynn Briggs, spokeswoman for the school division, Sigora’s proposal calls for the installation of solar panels on eight of the division’s nine schools — up from the original six the division had considered for solar panels in August. The one excluded school, Hardy Elementary, she said, is to be replaced, at which time the new school will also likely be equipped with solar panels. A timeline for replacing Hardy has not been finalized yet, Briggs added, but should be once the division awards a contract for that project, likely sometime this spring.

Division Superintendent Dr. Jim Thornton had explained in August 2019 when the matter was previously brought to the school board’s attention that the contract, once finalized, would be a power purchase agreement. This, he said, would specify that the company is to install the solar panels at its own expense, ensuring no upfront cost to IWCS. In return, the division would agree to purchase the power generated from the panels and use it to power each of the schools on which the panels are located.

With eight schools slated for solar panels, division officials now expect the agreement to save roughly $4 million over the next 25 years by purchasing solar power at a lower cost than it would have paid to Dominion Energy. According to estimates that division staff presented to the school board in August, roughly 78 percent of Windsor Elementary School’s electricity needs can be generated through solar power, with the remainder still coming from Dominion. Annual savings division-wide are projected to be upwards of $104,000.

The advantage of this agreement to Sigora, in addition to the profit the company will make from selling solar energy to IWCS, comes from a federal tax credit available to companies that invest in renewable energy systems such as solar panels, Thornton had previously explained.

No timetable has been established yet for installing the panels on the schools, as the division is still in negotiations with the company, Briggs said.