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.