Trenton School Committee hears solar presentation

TRENTON — After a deal between the town and Sundog Solar to install solar panels on the roof of the town office fell through in June, town officials and the Trenton School Committee could decide to work together on a new agreement, this time with panels attached to the Trenton Elementary School’s roof.

The School Committee met Tuesday and heard from Guy Marshall of ReVision Energy, a renewable energy company with branches throughout New England, regarding potential options.

“The ideal roof is the school,” Marshall said.

Marshall reported that the school draws 77 percent of the town’s total power usage. The town has energy meters at the town office, Route 3 stoplight, salt/sand shed and Industrial Way.

Marshall’s preliminary plan includes 402 solar panels installed on sections of the school’s roof, which could offset 98 percent of the energy usage for the town and school.

Combined, the town and school use about 142,000 kilowatt hours of power, he reported.

“We’re doing more and more municipal work because the numbers make sense,” Marshall said.

He added that the company aims to not overproduce power, because utility companies typically do not reimburse nonprofits and organizations that produce more power than they can use.

Marshall said installing solar panels at the school could be an opportunity for children to learn about renewable resources.

He explained that the town and school could enter into a power purchase agreement, where investors take advantage of federal tax incentives and supply the upfront capital needed for the installation of solar panels for the “host” of a particular solar project. The power is then sold back to the host at below-market rates.

The town and school could decide to purchase the solar array in year six of the agreement and could set aside funds throughout the years leading up to that potential purchase.

Marshall noted that utility rates are constantly increasing, but with a power purchase agreement, the town and school would be locked in at a 2 percent yearly increase.

“I think any opportunity to work with the town is a great opportunity,” said Marc Gousse, superintendent for Mount Desert Island Regional School System, which is also known as Alternative Organizational Structure 91 (AOS 91).

Gousse added that the town of Tremont recently worked with its school to sign onto a power purchase agreement.

The next steps toward making a deal include providing Marshall with the school’s current utility contract to determine if the school can change the type of power meter it uses. Additionally, Marshall will come up with a more formal design and cashflow plan.

For some institutions, the COVID-19 pandemic has caused utility usage to decrease, due to the changes in how some buildings are used. But Marshall noted that the Trenton school’s usage increased in 2020. School Committee Chairwoman Jennifer Bonilla said that the increases could be from the use of large coolers to store meals for families when the building was closed to in-person instruction.

Those types of increases, as well as installing additional ventilation systems to combat the spread of the coronavirus, could continue, which generated even more of an interest in investing in renewable resources from committee members.

Principal Crystal DaGraca noted she is still working on obtaining quotes to replace a portion of the school’s roof with metal roofing, following requests from voters at the town’s annual meeting in June.

Marshall noted that the portions of the school’s roof where panels would be placed were not in need of repairs before installing the panels, but DaGraca said she would work on getting quotes anyway, since the worn areas could eventually be the site of panels.

Rebecca Alley

Rebecca Alley

Reporter at The Ellsworth American
Rebecca is the Schoodic-area reporter and covers the towns of Eastbrook, Franklin, Hancock, Lamoine, Sorrento, Sullivan, Waltham, Winter Harbor and Trenton. She lives in Ellsworth with her husband and baby boy who was joyously welcomed in June 2020. Feel free to send tips and story ideas to [email protected]

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