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Solar Panels Await Final Inspections at Bernards Schools

UPDATED: Rooftop panels at Ridge High School and William Annin Middle School will be online soon.

A project in which the Board of Education allowed Somerset County to install solar panels on the roofs of the William Annin Middle School and Ridge High School is complete, and awaiting final inspections before going online, school officials said this week.

"Everything is done," School Board Member William Koch said at Monday's meeting.

Schools Superintendent Nick Markarian reported later that the inspections could be done and the panels online by the end of February.

The project, started late last summer, could eventually save the school district about $695,000 over the life of the panels, estimated at 15 years, according to figures from the Board of Education office.

The greatest savings — based on estimated energy costs that can fluctuate over time — would be at the end of the 15-year period, according to board figures.

The school district's share of savings from the panels, which are being financed by Somerset County, would be an estimated $36,492 the first year, with more of that amount, or $24,023, coming from the panels on the high school roof.

By year 15, the current estimates are that the school district would save an estimated $56,168, with about $37,000 of that coming from the high school panels.

UPDATED: The owner of the panels, which is Somerset County, is responsible for them, Markarian added on Friday.

In 2011, the school board had previously considered a larger project by Somerset County, and a board-financed plan that would have called for panels on a parking canopy at the middle school and a possible installation of panels in a field at the Mount Prospect Elementary School.

The board eventually decided to go with the county plan, but to scale back the proposal to include only roof panels at the two upper level schools, even if that meant lower savings. At a meeting in 2011, the county estimated that installing panels on the ground level at Mount Prospect and on a parking lot canopy at the middle school, along with roof panels at the high school, would have saved the school district more than $2 million over 15 years.

However, school officials decided that the parking canopy and Mount Prospect installations would have had too much impact on the school properties.

Dan Sullivan January 31, 2013 at 01:17 PM
One has to wonder if the savings include maintenance and repairs. The term TCO (Total Cost of Ownership) comes to mind. While solar panels are static, they are in the elements and there will be semi-sophisticated electronic components inside. These components can't be serviced by just any electrician. Is there a maintenance contract or a budget assigned for maintenance and repairs? Has that been considered? I'm not opposed to solar, but question the formula often used for savings that excludes TCO.
doug wicks January 31, 2013 at 02:10 PM
How THe BOE about posting on their web, on a monthly basis, the actual savings realized so we can see if we were advised honestly about the ROI. Also the prior post about maintenance and upkeep is valid as the very expensive inverters needed to change the DC generated by the panels into usable AC are very prone to burnout. So who is responsible for their repair/replacement.
HG January 31, 2013 at 02:30 PM
From what I recall, the BOE doesn't actually own these panels, so I would think (but can always be surpised) that maintanence is the owner's responsibility. However, if there are any problems with the roof, the BOE would almost certainly have to pay for that. There might be an increase in insurance costs, but, once again, it's the owner of the panels who would likely have to bear that if, for instance, these panel blew off in a hurricane.
Linda Sadlouskos (Editor) February 01, 2013 at 02:35 PM
See updated answer on question of who is responsible for the panels.

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