Taconic Hills now sees its solar savings faster

CRARYVILLE–After several months of discussions with state officials, the Taconic Hills School District will be able to use energy credits resulting from its investment in a solar system applied directly to its electric utility bill account effective as of February 2017.

District Business Manager Cybil Howard had sought this “reconciliation in real time” since the start of the current school year.

School districts purchase electricity through the Questar III BOCES, which negotiates a three-year deal with electricity suppliers for territories served by power companies NYSEG and National Grid. The current deal is in its third year. Taconic Hills participates in the program and is part of a consortium of 170 schools, stretching from the Capital Region west to Rochester.

The previous process called for districts to make payments for electricity in six equal installments and then receive a credit at the end of the year for any overpayment. But there was a delay in assigning credits directly to school districts so the state could analyze the impact of such credits on its ability to negotiate prices with energy suppliers.

According to Ms. Howard, the new payment plan allows savings to be applied “directly” to the district’s budget line for utilities. She is in the process of developing a budget for the next school year to present to the school board at its next meeting Wednesday, April 19.

Last year the Taconic Hills District entered into an agreement with Monolith, a private solar electric system developer, to develop a dual solar system, with panels located on the bus garage roof and as freestanding solar panel arrays in a nearby field along Route 23 in Craryville. That led to the district realizing $28,000 in energy credits, which represents a 30% share of energy savings during the period from August 2016 to January 2017. The remaining 70% share goes to Monolith, which provided materials and installation of the remote site at no cost to the district.

The district will receive another credit this month to cover the months of February and March 2017. Ms. Howard declined to speculate on the value of those credits.

How popular is the switch to solar systems among the region’s school districts? Sean Joyce, manager of Central Services, the office that negotiates energy buys, said that while he could not identify the specific number he did acknowledge that a “handful of districts out in your area either have solar systems, are engaged in adding solar systems or are considering the change.”

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