Officials with MetroTek Electrical Services, Kunkletown, recently gave a turn-key solar proposal presentation to Tamaqua School board and other District officials in the LGI room of the Tamaqua Middle School.

According to the proposed agreement, the District would allow MetroTek to construct and operate the solar electric systems on district-owned land on each campus, with the entire project being completed at no cost to the District, as the District will be paying them for power over the next 20-years.

Once the system is operational and generating power, MetroTek will maintain and operate the system and sell electricity to the district for 20 years. If given the go ahead by borough, school board and other officials, the 20-year power purchase agreement solar project would involve placing solar panels on the grounds of the Tamaqua High School, Tamaqua Elementary School, Rush Elementary School and West Penn Elementary School. The project will consist of approximately 16,000 solar panels among the four locations and will provide 3.65 MWh of solar power, enough to power all of the schools.

The project thus qualifies the district as a 'Net Zero' facility, a facility that provides all the energy it requires to power each of the buildings, but not enough to sell into the grid.

According to Reiner Jaeckle, chief operating officer of MetroTek, TASD will produce more solar power than any other district in the state.

The presentation displayed a comparison chart to a coal fire power plant, stating that the TASD would boast a reduction of 4,636 pounds of sulfur oxide, 3,091 pounds of nitrogen oxide, 6,335,860 pounds of carbon dioxide and 8,112,992 pounds of methane. To put those quantities in prospective, it would take 2,840 compact cars driving 10,000 miles a year to produce those amounts of CO2.

The average household of three consumes 6,000 kWh of energy a year. Because a coal fire power plant produces 1.5 pounds of CO2 per kWh, the project will eliminate the CO2 equal to 1,932 homes.

The amount of solar panels required at each school varies, with 11,511 panels in the mountain behind the high school, 676 panels east of the Rush elementary, 1,157 panels north of the West Penn elementary school, and 1,684 panels north of the Tamaqua elementary, leaving room for expansion.

The total estimated savings during the proposed 20 year purchase agreement is estimated to be about $5,749,000, which is a 46.58 percent 20-year savings off the District's current price per kWh being charged. The news system is slated to generate 68,814,006 kWh over the system's lifetime.

Jaeckle pointed out that the system will provide power to both the schools and sports stadiums. The price the District will pay MetroTek for solar electricity is expected to be "far less than the grid rate," Jaeckle said. At the end of the 20-year agreement, the District can choose to assume ownership of the system and all operating and maintenance costs, or it can continue its relationship with MetroTek, extending the contract in five-year increments.

Jaeckle said the difficulty in predicting a timeline for ground-breaking due to the permitting process. Once complete, Jaeckle said each solar panel site will be constantly monitored by security cameras to deter vandalism. In addition to supplying the district with low-priced electricity, Jaeckle said the agreement will allow the district to accurately control its energy costs because the price will remain stable for 20 years.

Once all engineering and government permits are secured, Jaeckle said construction would take about seven months to complete. Carol Makuta, District Superintendent, stated, "The geothermal project will make the buildings more energy-efficient and the solar project will lower the cost of the electricity."