NASHUA — School officials have rejected a proposal to install about 1,000 solar arrays on the roof of a local elementary school.
The project, which would have been funded through an unidentified investment partner, raised several concerns from members of the Board of Education.
ReVision Energy approached the board’s finance committee last week about the proposed solar initiative for Dr. Crisp Elementary School. The initial $643,681 cost to install the solar arrays would have been fully paid by a partner with ReVision Energy.
“The specific investor doesn’t necessarily want their name known,” said Elijah Garrison of ReVision Energy.
Although there would have been no upfront cost to the school district, it would have had the option of a buyout during the sixth year of the proposed power purchase agreement. The buyout, on year six, would have cost $386,209.
“We just don’t have that type of money in the school district,” said board member Dotty Oden.
She also raised concerns about the investment partner receiving tax breaks — money that taxpayers are actually forking over in taxes, said Oden.
“The first five years you are reducing operating costs on a net basis by a certain amount,” said Garrison.
He said that the 25-year net savings, including the optional buyout, would be $565,000, and that the 40-year net savings, also including the optional buyout, would be about $1.55 million.
The Dr. Crisp Elementary School on Arlington Street is suitable and ready for solar since it has a new roof, according to Garrison.
“I think we should focus on the academics,” said board member Howard Coffman.
He reminded board members of the major middle school project that is on the horizon, which could cost more than $100 million.
“That is where we should be putting our attention. I don’t think we should go this route at all,” he said of the solar proposal.
While solar is a nice concept, board member William Mosher said there are other school priorities, including making sure that the existing schools are safe and properly secured.
“I think the finances on this are very convoluted,” added Mosher.
Recently, city officials entered into a power purchase agreement with ReVision Energy to place solar arrays on select city buildings, including the Lake Street fire station, transit garage on Riverside Drive and the Conway Ice Arena.
Doria Brown, the new energy manager for the city, said she has reviewed the financial aspect of the project, which she views as an investment for the city.
“We are going to be buying energy anyway,” said Brown, explaining that if the city doesn’t have the solar in place, it will be using a third-party provider. In this scenario, Brown said the investor and the city both end up winning.
The committee voted unanimously to indefinitely suspend all discussions, considerations or approvals of any photovoltaic energy projects within the school district. The issue could be revisited in January once there are different members on the Board of Education, Oden said.