Company Proposes Solar Panels To Stephens Co. BOE

March 20, 2014

The Stephens County Board of Education is exploring a partnership with a company to place solar panels on the roof of Stephens County High School and possibly at other schools in the system.

Tuesday, the school board heard from William Silva, the President and CEO of United Renewable Energy of Alpharetta.

The company is interested in placing solar panels at one or more locations on school system property and selling the energy created to Georgia Power.

Silva said they mainly looked at unused space on the roofs at some of the schools in the county.

“The ones that look feasible are the high school, for up to 1 megawatt, which is the power usage of 100 homes over the course of a year,” said Silva.  “Toccoa and Big A Elementary schools have smaller usable areas because of roof constraints.”

Silva said he also looked at vacant school system property in the area of Rose Lane and Skyline Drive, but that property may not be feasible.

The company is already building one such solar panel facility in the county, on land owned by the Stephens County Development Authority on Turner Road.

Silva said United Renewable Energy would have a similar arrangement with the school system to the one already in place with the Development Authority.

“We would own the project,” said Silva.  “Over the period of 20 years, we would sell energy to Georgia Power directly and pay you (the school system) to host that site.”

Silva said the school system would receive about $6,000 to $8,000 a year in lease payments, along with a bonus payment at the start of the project if it moves forward.

The school system would not utilize the power created by the solar panels.

Silva said having solar panels available to the school system could also provide an educational benefit by letting students learn about solar energy first hand.

“We actually have very sophisticated systems that collect all the data,” said Silva.  “We could make (that data) available for you (for classroom purposes).”

A number of board members said they like the potential educational benefits of having the solar panels.

Silva said that United Renewable Energy has to submit the proposed project to Georgia Power by April 4, so he needed feedback Tuesday.

With that in mind, the Board of Education voted 5-2 to grant its preliminary support and authorize United Renewable Energy to continue exploring the project.

Steve Tilley and Jim Ledford voted “no.”

Tilley said he did not feel like the school board had enough time to look at the proposal before making a decision.

“It is kind of sad we are pushed up against this timeline,” said Tilley.  “It makes me feel a little uncomfortable making a decision hurriedly.”

If approved by Georgia Power, the Board of Education would still have to agree to a formal lease agreement with United Renewable Energy for anything to happen.

Silva said that if everything works out and the project goes ahead, solar panels could be up and running this Fall.

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