Need a New Roof for a School? Have a Solar Company Replace the Roof

In Robbinsville NJ, a school board badly needed funds to replace rooftops. Unable to get the funds, they decided instead to have solar companies bid on the schools, in order to enter into a Power Purchase Agreement to fix the roof, install solar panels, and sell the energy produced back to the school.A win-win situation…

Here is the full article (see original article at this link:

ROBBINSVILLE: District moving on solar lease project
Thursday, September 9, 2010 1:07 AM EDT
By Joanne Degnan, Staff Writer
ROBBINSVILLE — The Board of Education has given a Trenton architecture firm the go-ahead to write the bid specifications for a 1.4-megawatt solar energy power purchase agreement that would essentially lease out the district’s rooftops at the elementary, middle and high schools to a green energy investor.

The Aug. 31 vote was 7-0 to pay the Spiezle Architecture Group up to $38,000 to write the technical request for proposals for private entities interested in bidding on the project. Newly appointed board member Vincent Costanza abstained and Thomas Halm was absent.

”We are targeting a November bid opening,” said Carol Boyne, the chairwoman of the school board’s Finance, Facilities & Transportation Committee. If the contract is awarded by January, the project could be done next summer.

The anticipated benefits to the district are a $54,000 annual savings in energy costs and the free replacement of aging roofs on the older sections of Sharon Elementary School and Pond Road Middle School, which would be made a required condition of the power purchase agreement. The new roofs would have otherwise cost taxpayers $2.5 million if the district had to pay for it.

Since Robbinsville High School is a new building, its roof does not need to be replaced prior to the installation of a solar energy system there. The roof at RHS should last the length of the 15-year power purchase agreement.

The roof over some sections of Sharon Elementary School, however, is more than 20 years old and the oldest section of Pond Road Middle School is 16 years old, according to district Business Administrator Bob DeVita.

”We need to get those roofs replaced,” said Ms. Boyne prior to the vote. “The PPA is the way to get this done.”

The district had been counting on the funding for the roof replacement project to come from the $39.6 million school construction referendum, but voters defeated that in March. The failed referendum would have provided $6.6 million for the new roofs as well as repairs to the existing elementary and middle schools; the remainder was for the construction of a new K-5 elementary school.

Having the PPA require the bidder to replace the roofs at two of the three schools prior to the installation of the solar panels gives the district a creative way to fix its roofs despite the defeat of the March referendum.

The school board originally had considered the possibility of financing the purchase and installation of the solar system itself because Spiezle officials said the district could realize revenues of at least $200,000 a year, after debt service payments, if it owned the 1.4-megawatt solar energy system.

However, this option was rejected by the board because it did not think it could persuade voters to approve the $11.6 million bond referendum that would have been needed to finance the purchase and installation of a solar energy system, even one that would be ultimately cash-positive for the district.

The PPA option, although not as lucrative for the district, does not require a bond referendum because the district would not own the 5,890 solar panels installed on top of the three schools.

By law, a PPA can only be for 15 years, meaning the private entity that owns the solar energy system would have to remove it in 2026 if the school district and the company are unable to negotiate a new PPA.


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