The Wethersfield School Board unanimously approved signing a letter of intent to enter into a partnership that could lead to the school supplying much of its own power through rooftop solar panels.
The board acted following a presentation by Stephen Smith of the Clean Energy Design Group and Kevin Yepsen, president and chairman of Galva Investment, Inc., the holding company for Community State Bank.
The two have partnered to promote solar power projects at several local school districts using a state program called â€śBehind the Meterâ€ť and administered through Ameren.
If the schoolâ€™s application is approved by Ameren and then the state in January, the rooftop solar units could be installed as early as next year.
The units would be constructed and maintained at no cost to the district, and power generated by them would be sold back to the district by the investment group at a reduced rate, saving the district an estimated $360,000 in power costs over the life of the 25-year project. The power offset to the new system is expected to be about 75 percent, with the cost of electricity dropping by more than half.
Yepsen said he believes those estimates are actually low because they were prepared using very conservative numbers. He predicted that the rate of annual electricity costs will rise more than the projected 2.5 percent annually it has in the past few years, which is what the estimates are based on.
â€śEven in year 25 (when efficiency of the panels drops to 85 percent) youâ€™re paying less than you pay now,â€ť Yepsen said.
â€śItâ€™s zero out-of-pocket cost for the school district,â€ť Superintendent Shane Kazubowski told the board.
The investment group, which is focusing on smaller residential and public projects, would own the energy credit incentives. Any surplus energy produced by the system could be sold by the district to Ameren at market rates.
The systemâ€™s invertors would stop the flow of power from Ameren when the system is producing at maximum capacity. When itâ€™s not, then Ameren power would fill the void.
Smith said the investment group would hold all of the maintenance and liability issues related to the panels, which would be set on the roof by a specialized ballast system onto a rubberized under-roof, but not actually connected to the school buildingâ€™s roof.
â€śYou are absolutely not responsible for anything,â€ť he said, though a rider would be added in any final deal to consider who would be responsible for moving the system should roof repairs be needed at any point.
Smith said the companyâ€™s engineers would run a roof-load analysis to determine how many panels could be installed.
Yepsen said they also would meet Kewaneeâ€™s solar ordinance, which he called â€śone of the most strictâ€ť in its regulation of new solar power units.
At the end of the 25-year period, the district would have the option of buying the system or extending the power agreement for five-year increments.
If the districtâ€™s application isnâ€™t approved in the first round of the stateâ€™s solar â€ślotteryâ€ť system, it would remain on the list in ranked order until the program is exhausted. Smith and Yepsen said if it isnâ€™t approved in this round, it would likely be approved down the road.
â€śNobody else can apply until your lottery ticket is drawn,â€ť Yepsen said.