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MSD eyes solar project

by ANDREW MACIEJEWSKI - amaciejewski@wabashplaindealer.com

A proposed solar project at Southwood Jr.-Sr. High School could save nearly $1.9 million over a 25-year period, if board members at Metropolitan School District of Wabash County (MSD) approve the plan.

The project includes a 20-year lease transfer agreement, which includes maintenance costs, a 25-year insurance plan and a guaranteed cost savings of $1,885,475, according to PSG CEO Jami Krynski. PSG and their energy partner would own the panels until the school made their last payment, so the school can avoid capital investment costs.

“I think the big advantage is saving money,” MSD Assistant Superintendent of Finance Chris Kuhn said. “You’re not increasing any burden on the taxpayers because there’s no capital outlay.”

The panels could perform for decades after MSD gains ownership of the investment, which would add to their projected savings. The board is also considering adding an additional LED lighting project that would offer incentives. 

The board has not made any decision on the matter, but Kuhn said he would like to have to project up before winter, so they can make the most of their investment.

“We’ve kind of narrowed that down a bit to maybe just starting out small to see how it goes, but the key time to get that built and up and running is August or September,” Kuhn said. “We can do it later, but you don’t get as much sunlight storage when you start later in the winter because there’s not as much sunlight available.”

Previously, MSD administrators were considering projects at all of their schools, but they decided to focus on Southwood Jr.-Sr. High School because the school’s utility provider, Duke Energy, provides the most renewable energy incentives.

Net metering is a program where the utility allows a solar producer to earn rebates for unused energy and call upon those rebates in the winter season where available daylight and consequently energy production is lower, PSG CEO Jami Krynski said.

MSD decided to hold a proposed project at Northfield Jr.-Sr. High School because projects with REMC, who provides energy to most of MSD’s school buildings, require schools to build generators to save up unused energy to avoid high demand charges in the summer, Krynski said.

Kuhn said the administration is prepared to recommend the board sign a letter of intent with PSG and EMCORE, PSG’s solar project partner. The letter would not lock them into a contract, but it would allow engineers to begin preparing for construction.

MSD and other schools in Indiana have four years to sign contracts with Duke before Indiana Senate Bill 309 phases out net metering incentives statewide.

“The unfortunate part of the net meter law is that they changed it last year,” Krynski said at a previous school board meeting. “If you were to do this project this year, you would have 15 years of net meter at that retail rate, but if you don’t apply for net meter contract in the next four years, it goes away forever and nobody gets it. So Indiana legislators really limited Hoosiers’ ability to make changes.”