Tamaqua school district wants to harness solar power
Solar energy could be coming to the Tamaqua Area School District in the near future.
The district was close to making the change over to solar about a decade ago.
At the Tamaqua school board meeting on Wednesday, board President Larry Wittig said that although the district is in the preliminary stages of this project, the district is strongly in pursuit of making it happen in 2019.
“This company came in and did a proposal, and we were negotiating the cost to the district,” said Wittig in regard to the plan 12 years ago. “They would guarantee us a rate for 20 years and then we would own the system and basically have free electricity for the rest of the time that the panels were there. It fell through because in negotiations, we wanted to have the lower of their rates, which was 7.9 cents per kilowatt, or market, whatever is less. But they wouldn’t go for that.”
But last week, Doug Neidich, CEO of Greenworks Development, met with members of the board in Tamaqua.
“This company out of central Pennsylvania designs and installs the field,” Wittig said. “He had a generic model for us to look at to see how we would structure this, based on a district of our size. We had a very good meeting and everyone is excited about it.
“It’s a long-term project. The first five years, we would be in kind-of a leasing situation. After that, we would more own the thing, but the bottom line is we’d be buying electricity at about 3 cents per kilowatt an hour, opposed to what it is now. That’s huge for us.
“Over the long haul, it would save millions of dollars,” he said.
Through the potential service agreement, the installation of the panels would be free of cost to the district. But where would the solar fields be constructed?
“We are uniquely positioned as a district with land; the perfect land to put solar fields up,” Wittig said. “The fields that we potentially could use would be up by the elementary school, or up behind the high school on the mountain. They can service anything within a 2-mile radius from any particular position.”
The school district might not be the only group that could potentially reap the benefits of the solar project.
“We haven’t done this yet, but we’re going to approach West Penn Township and the borough of Tamaqua, and see if they potentially want to partner with us in this, and they could benefit as well as us,” Wittig said. “We would have to put a little grid in West Penn, and West Penn could benefit from that. There’s all kinds of residuals that are gong to go along here.”
The next step is for Greenworks Development to further evaluate and gather more information.
“They will evaluate our footprint,” Wittig said. “They’re going to get maps of the topography and he’s going to do a design of a field and what it looks like; how many pounds he needs, at what angles etc. Then site-prep engineers will come on and determine what is the most feasible site to do it. Then, if everything moves along the way it’s supposed to, we’d start it this year.”