Purdy school district explores solar option
Proposal offers potential savings of $1.4 million over 25 years
Purdy school board members have a new energy option to consider, following the presentation of an attractive solar power deal by the Brightergy company.
At the request of the board, Superintendent Steven Chancellor invited John Conger III, to present what Brightergy could offer the district as a solar option. Conger explained that his firm frequently hears from school districts and has provided service to both the Pierce City and East Newton schools. More than 100 educational entities have signed with Brightergy, he said, making it the leading solar supplier in the Midwest with 700 clients and more than 1,500 solar projects.
Purdy typically spends $75,000 to $100,000 a year on electricity. In Pierce City, a ground installation of solar panels is expected to generate enough power to cut the district's electric bill in half. For Purdy, with its concentration of buildings and south facing flat roofs, Conger thought the district could save as much as 80 percent of its electricity bill annually, as much as $53,846 in the first year alone. He expected the district's electric bill to decrease approximately 2.5 percent each year. As with 90 percent of Brightergy's contracts, Purdy would pay for the equipment over time from the savings received, paying a fixed 6 cents per kilowatt hour, instead of 11 cents, providing protection against rate increases. Through Empire District Electric, the district would also receive a $50,000 rebate.
"You can be cash flow positive in the first year," Conger said. "Over 14 years, you can buy the equipment for $1. You will have saved $1.4 million in 25 years."
Board members wanted to know the durability of the equipment, which Conger said remains under warranty for 25 years. Even areas with wind and hail storms seldom see damage to the solar array, he said, though districts would continue to have insurance coverage of what is classified as "acts of God."
The actual solar panels would weigh up to 3 pounds each per square inch. Ballasts were now down to 3.5 pounds, Conger said. Since roofs are built to support 20 pounds per square inch of snow, he felt the weight represented no serious danger.
Solar panels would attach with clamps that go over the existing roof without any penetration, he said. Chancellor said the panels could even extend the life of a roof by covering it and thus absorbing the ultra-violet rays. Conger did not propose putting any panels on the district's middle school roof, the worst of all the roofs. Board member Ronnie Veith was leery of the damage that foot traffic could incur on the all-too-troubling gym roof that has been problem free since the last double layer addition.
Brightergy would require no up-front cash. Brightergy would offer a lease deal paid by the savings.
Mounting the system would take approximately 30 days, and additional equipment would extend the time as long as 60 days. Summer offers ideal conditions for installation, Conger said. Empire would replace its meters with solar meters. The district could get a 20-year warranty on the inverters, where 10 years is standard in the business. Brightergy would maintain internet connections on the system to monitor its production and detect problems. Conger said systems over time produce less power, but has some potential for expansion.
Board members found the proposal intriguing and agreed to study it. Chancellor said he may send Conger additional questions as the board explored the option.