Solar projects proposed for Northborough, Southborough schools

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drone photo of Algonquin Regional High School in Northborough by Tami White
Northborough and Southborough is considering adding solar arrays to their schools. This photo shows the current array at Algonquin Regional High School. (Photo/Tami White)

NORTHBOROUGH/SOUTHBOROUGH – Seven solar projects were recently presented at a combined meeting of the Northborough, Southborough and Regional School Committees.

The conversation at the combined meeting on Dec. 6 was informational and no vote was taken.

According to Superintendent Greg Martineau, the Solar Feasibility Study Group has continued its work.

Currently, there’s a solar array on the roof of Algonquin Regional High School, which is generating revenue for the school district. Martineau said they have reengaged with Solect Energy, which is a solar energy company based in Hopkinton, to consider the next phases for implementing solar across the three school districts.

Proposed projects

Each of the three school districts would have a solar project, according to Assistant Superintendent of Operations Keith Lavoie.

There is one proposed solar project in Southborough at Trottier Middle School. The Northborough projects would be located at Zeh, Proctor, Lincoln Street and a canopy at Melican. The Regional School District is eying a roof solar array and canopy at Algonquin.

Some of the projects — including those at Trottier, Zeh and Algonquin — are dependent on roof replacements. Lavoie said the district was working to secure grant funding for the replacement prior to considering solar arrays.

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Martineau said that Neary Elementary School was not on the list as the Neary School Building Committee as weighing a potential building project.

“I think part of Southborough’s challenge right now is having a building committee studying various scenarios. That’s also a factor in the choices,” he said.

All seven projects would be financed through a power purchase agreement.

Solect Energy’s David Bisson said the hallmarks of this agreement include no upfront cost, meaning that all of the capital expenses for designing, permitting and building the project are paid for by the company.

“In return, basically what the district is doing is allowing us to install the project on the rooftop or in the parking lot,” Bisson said.

He said there would be a lease agreement, but there wouldn’t be money exchanged through the lease. Bisson said the agreement, which could last between 20 to 25 years, also outlines a fixed cost per kilowatt-hour of solar energy generated.

In total, the seven projects are estimated to generate $5.6 million in savings over the terms of the power purchase agreement. The systems would produce about 86% percent of what the buildings currently consume in terms of electricity.

Next steps

Each respective committee will move the solar projects forward.

The projects before the Northborough and Southborough school committees will need to go before Town Meeting. According to Martineau, the staff will work with the town on the lease agreements, and the language will be presented to the committees that will need to be moved forward to get the articles on the warrant.

The process will be different for the Regional School Committee. There will be a presentation to the Regional School Committee regarding the next steps. Martineau said the project will not require the district to go to Town Meeting for approval.

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