Solar panels

In this January 2018 file photo, Sun Tribe Solar worker Garrett Tanner, kneeling, takes a measurement of solar panels as Sean Farber helps out in installing solar panels at the Rockfish Valley Community Center in Afton.

Nelson County Public Schools board members and division officials considered forming a solar committee during their Feb. 13 meeting to review proposals for installing solar panels on school properties.

During the meeting, Assistant Superintendent Shannon Irvin said since the division issued the request for proposals (RFP) for installing panels in September 2019, it received four proposals, some giving multiple options.

“Due to the variety of responses that we had and the different approaches we felt the best way to evaluate these proposals was to form a committee,” Irvin said in the meeting.

The committee also would serve the purpose of advising the board whether or not to continue with the project at this time.

Irvin said because of the length of the contract to use solar panels, which according to data presented to board members could be anywhere from 20 to 30 years, division officials felt it was in the “board’s best interest to gather input from an advisory committee in regard deciding whether to pursue this project or not.”

The Nelson County School Board has six options it must consider.

Three of the six proposals would require roof repairs for the high school, an undertaking which would cost anywhere from about $1 million to $3 million depending on the proposal.

According to the data, all vendors in their proposals assumed energy costs would increase by 3 to 4% per year for the next 20 years, a number taken into consideration for the estimated net cash flow of each of the proposals. Almost all of the proposals predict a positive net cash flow through a 30-year period.

Irvin said in an email after the meeting the reasons behind exploring advantages of installing solar panels on school property include offsetting some of the divisions energy costs, cutting down on dependence of fossil fuels and using the panels as a teaching tool for students regarding environmentally friendly technologies as well as possible career exploration.

However, Irvin also outlined problems officials will need to consider before committing to the project.

She said Nelson County High School’s membrane roof will need to be replaced in the next several years and it currently is unclear if other schools will require the same treatment.

She said the cost to remove panels after they are installed to complete this repair “could be substantial.”

She also outlined a concern over how the installation of roof panels could affect existing roof warranties and responsibility for the maintenance and upkeep of the equipment should it be installed.

Board member Margaret Clair, who was absent during the meeting but participated remotely, suggested the board reach out to the Rockfish Valley Community Center for input. RVCC installed panels on its roof in January of 2018.

“Finding out what they did and … what some of their considerations would be might help us,” Claire said.

Irvin also put forth a list of potential committee members. She said the group would consist of at least one student, one parent, one teacher, one administrator, one school board member and herself.

She added she has sent out the invitations and she hopes for the group to meet in March so vendors can present their proposals to the group.

“They were just a list of suggestions. Of course, it would not need to be the ones that the school board would chose, but I at least … wanted to involve those who expressed interest,” Irvin said during the meeting.

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