S. Colonie looks to the sun for savings

Agreement inked that sets stage for largest public school solar project in state

— Educators in the South Colonie Central School District think the future is looking bright when it comes to the electricity bill.

The district has struck a deal with Rensselaer-based Monolith Solar that could see a total of 5,700 solar panels installed on the roofs of its eight schools and the Transportation Department offices by next year. The project is contingent on the award of a New York State Energy Research and Development Authority grant.

It would be “the largest district-wide public school solar installation in New York State to date,” according to Strategic Account Manager Tim Carr of Monolith Solar Associates. The company has similar arrangements with other municipal bodies, including school districts.

Under the proposed agreement, Monolith would install panels and equipment at 11 locations and maintain the equipment for 20 years. The company would then sell the district electricity at an average rate of about 3.5 cents per kilowatt-hour, which is roughly half of what National Grid charges. The system would have about 1.7 megawatts of capacity.

The change could result in savings of $64,000 in the first year of the agreement and $1.7 million over the 20-year lifespan, according to figures provided by the district.

“This is great for our district,” said Board of Education President James Tim Ryan in a statement. “It sounds like a win-win situation for everyone. We look forward to seeing this project move on to a successful completion.”

If the district were to buy the system at retail cost and have Monolith install it, the bill would run about $5 million, according to Carr. By contracting with the company and buying the power from Monolith, South Colonie avoids putting money into the equipment itself.

“There is no capital outlay and they get the immediate benefit,” Carr said. “The financial upside is very high, especially for something like a school district which is very budget driven.”

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