Thursday, April 22, 2010

Solar Panels and Earth Day

The Morning Call has an article on the solar panels the NASD will be installing (read the article here).

It seems to me that under this agreement taxpayer money funds grants that are given to out of state, for profit companies to build their facilities on publicly owned school district property and they in turn charge school districts for the energy they provide at a lower rate than the ‘traditional’ electric companies which operate and employ workers in the Commonwealth of PA.

It is Earth Day, and I understand the desire to be environmentally friendly, but the math here doesn’t seem to add up, nor does the funding of out of state companies and the use of public property for the operation of a for-profit company.

Here is the information from the article. The state provided a grant of nearly $1M. The project will cost $2.8M. The article says a company from Florida will own the ‘solar farm’. It also notes the solar energy generated will provide half the electric necessary to operate the NAIS.

This quote appears in the article:

''The huge benefit is that it will cost the school district nothing,'' said Lewis F. Lengyel, district supervisor of facilities and operations.

And this one:

“The solar electricity will have an initial rate cap of 9 cents per kilowatt hour, and subsequent annual increases of 3 percent or less. Energy savings will increase in 2011 when Met-Ed's rate cap is lifted; rates are expected to go up 40 percent.”

So the school district will pay full price for half its electric at one building, the NAIS. It will then pay a reduced rate for the other half of the electric at this building. It will lose the ability to use 2.6 acres of land. It will develop current farmland to install the solar panels.

I don’t know what the savings will be on an annual basis, but it would seem that it will take quite a few years to get to the $1M being invested by taxpayers.

Posted via email from Ross Nunamaker


John said...

Several points I noticed. First, the company building this solar farm is from Williams Township, although they may be a subsidiary they are still very local. Second, the solar farm will be located, operated, and maintained in the Commonwealth of PA. Third, taxpayer funding of technologies in their infancy is not uncommon so why not happen in Nazareth rather than somewhere else. Finally on earth day we need to be more focused on the impact on the environment of using a non polluting energy source rather than the cost.

SueBDynamo said...

Good points John. We can't miss the forest for the trees when it comes to energy independence.

It is a shame that unused farmland is being utilized, we are really losing our AgriCulture. But it's a better use than another strip mall, right?

Maybe Met-Ed needs to install a few of these themselves.

NewsOverCoffee said...

In a perfect world, I can see spending unlimited amounts of money for this type of project, but right now our schools in PA are hurting. Look at Bethlehem with its bond swap mess and Easton looking to eliminate sports programs at MS and 70 staff. The pension fund is troubled and taxpayers are going to have to foot the bill.

I'd much prefer these state funds go toward supporting our schools than promoting an industry at this point in time.

In this case, it doesn't seem like solar is the right answer. And if it is, I would have preferred using a local company - there is one in Upper Nazareth. Instead of one that is out of state to support with PA taxpayer dollars.

It will take $2.8 million to complete this project. $1M comes from the state. This company then must make a return of at least $1.8M to break even. The money will have to come from the school or they are going to be selling it to other companies.

If they are selling it to others, we then have a private company operating on public property and I don't care for that precedent.

What is the school saving? Not that much, one half of the building must still use traditional electric sources. The other half the school gets a reduced rate, but must still pay for it.

The school must also give 2.6 acres for the placement of the solar panels.

It doesn't seem to me that this is a solution. You spend a lot of money and get little return.