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Monroe firm appeals solar project ruling

Published April 23. 2012 05:02PM

A Monroe County firm that wants to construct solar energy panels to meet electrical power needs at Lehigh and Moore elementary schools is appealing a Northampton County Court decision that rejected the project.

MetroTek Electrical Services, Kunkletown, will appeal to Commonwealth Court a March 5 decision by Northampton County Judge Michael Koury.

Northampton Area School District Superintendent Joseph Kovalchik made the announcement of the MetroTek appeal at the April 9 NASD Board of Education meeting.

"We'll keep you updated," Kovalchik told the school board, NASD administrators and audience at the meeting in the administration building.

"I just received notification today [April 9] that an appeal has been filed," Kovalchik added.

NASD expects to save $2.4 million in electricity costs during a 20-year contract with Energy Alliance Group (Northampton) LLC. MetroTek would construct and maintain the solar panels and Energy Alliance would own the solar system.

The project is not expected to require NASD funding.

The NASD solar project is touted as one of the largest net-zero solar energy systems at an educational facility in the commonwealth.

Koury upheld two decisions by the Lehigh Township Zoning Hearing Board and one by the Moore Township Zoning Hearing Board that denied approval of solar panels as an accessory use. Kovalchik received notification March 6 of Koury's decision.

Moore Township zoners approved the solar panels as a special exception rather than an accessory use. Koury reversed the Moore zoners' decision.

The appeal is being filed by a law firm representing MetroTek. Atty. Christopher Spadoni represented MetroTek before Koury.

The Lehigh Elementary project is expected to generate 1.2 megawatts, which would supply the school's energy needs.

The solar energy system at both elementary schools was initially expected to produce 2,487,003 kilowatt hours of electricity annually from approximately 11,728 high-efficiency photovoltaic solar modules.

The project was to be integrated into NASD's curriculum, employ local labor and involve the purchase of local materials.

The project was made possible by an $831,250 grant from the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, the Pennsylvania Energy Development Authority and is funded through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

NASD expects to offset 1,254 tons of carbon dioxide a year, 994 pounds of nitrogen oxide and 2,611,353 pounds of methane annually.

NASD held a groundbreaking ceremony Oct. 20, 2010, at Lehigh Elementary School attended by 120 Lehigh Valley and state elected officials, school district and school board representatives and Northampton area civic leaders.

At the groundbreaking state Rep. Julie Harhart (R-183rd ) said, "MetroTek is participating in a great project for Lehigh and Moore Elementary schools, as well as the community, by building and installing this solar energy system."

NASD residents came out in force to protest the solar projects at the school board meeting held Nov. 8 and Nov. 22, 2010, at Northampton Area High School.

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