MSD continues solar panel discussion

By Emma Rausch

MSD of Wabash County furthered discussions on possibly using solar panels in the future to cut utility costs.

The MSD Board of Education began the talks on July 11 with a presentation from Performance Services, an Indianapolis-based, energy-savings consulting firm.

Chris Kuhn, MSD assistant superintendent of finance, updated the MSD Board of Education on the information he gathered so far on the possible endeavor.

“This is an opportunity, again, for us to follow our theme or motto as far as dreaming big and working hard, and what advantages solar panels might bring us as a corporation,” Kuhn said.

By implementing solar panels, the corporation would generate a guaranteed savings of $5,344,987 across 20 years with a fixed utility cost of $274,537 yearly, he explained, citing the Performance Services’ calculations.

“So no matter what, we are guaranteed an amount of savings over the life of our lease (of the solar panels), which I believe is 20 years,” Kuhn said. “So there’s about a $5 million cost savings that we would have over a 25-year period. These solar panels typically last about 40 years.

“That cost in the example was $274,537 annually. … That’s the cost that would come out of CPF (Capital Projects Fund) when our average power costs, on a yearly basis, is $343,700 with the last three year average that I took.”

Board member Gary Fadil questioned if there’d be additional power costs for emergency cases of inclement weather.

“The way I understand it is it’s a fixed cost so they guarantee that,” Superintendent Michael Keaffaber said. “So if we go over this usage, they pay for that. So it is a fixed cost. What we’re really doing is trading monies. So in other words, instead of paying a vendor for our power, we’re paying our lease for the solar panels and then that is a guaranteed amount that we pay, which is a huge savings.

“That’s why we see these (solar panels) pop up all over the place and you see all the other schools looking at this because not only is it a savings, it’s also environmental friendly.”

Kuhn advised that, according to Performance Services, while cloudy days and snow will have some affect on the panels, it will not inhibit the technology’s ability to perform.

Fadil questioned if implementing solar panels throughout the district was a “high priority” project.

“When we had this presentation this last time, I did not believe when I left here that this was our highest priority, to bring it back up for another conversation,” he explained.

“And I can answer some of that too,” Keaffaber replied. “When you say highest priority, there’s a lot to it. Are you talking about curriculum? Are you talking about construction? Are you talking about finances? This is one (project) where there’s no capital outlay so there’s no cost to us. So when there’s no cost to us and there’s a savings to us then it is a priority because, if you think about it, if we can save $50,000 out of our Capital Projects that we would not have saved otherwise—“

“You’ll be spending your utility costs regardless,” Kuhn added. “They will continue to go up. So you’re just spending that money to spend that money because you have that cost. This is an opportunity to save some of that cost out of Capital Projects and you save some of that cost out of the General Fund, because whatever is not covered in the Capital Projects since we can only spend so much is taken out of General Fund.”

If the board wished to move forward, Kuhn said, the next steps would include board discussion, request for qualifications and enter the bidding process, receive vendor recommendations and presentations, the board provides approval and sends a letter of intent, and then lastly begins design and layout.

Posted on 2017 Oct 24