RMS Waits For Word On Solar Progress

            Superintendent Doug White told the Rochester School Committee on October 3 that a potential roof-mounted solar project at Rochester Memorial School is still in the negotiation process between the Town of Rochester and the solar developer.

            In September, the Rochester Board of Selectmen postponed taking any further action toward approving an agreement with Select Energy to allow town counsel more time to work with the developer.

            “We’re in the process of having the contract looked at,” White said, adding that he has since then met with the town administrator and town counsel who are still studying the language of the contract leading up to a signed agreement.

            “Until that happens, we’re on hold,” White said, until the committee receives further direction from the town.

            Back in September, Matt Shortsleeve of Select Energy gave a presentation on placing roof-mounted solar energy panels at RMS that could save the district around $600,000 throughout the 20-year life of the contract.

            The school district and the Board of Selectmen would contract directly with Select Energy, which will then design, engineer, permit, procure the equipment, install, and maintain the equipment. The district and the board must first enter into an agreement with Select Energy, and sign a lease granting Select Energy access to the location. A payment in lieu of taxes (PILOT) agreement with the Town of Rochester would then follow.

            Shortsleeve cautioned, however, that the parties should decide on moving forward sooner rather than later since tax incentives will decrease as time passes, which means contracted electricity rates would rise.

            “The sooner we go, the better chance that you’ll get a better rate,” said Shortsleeve back on September 5. “It will creep up on you if you wait.”

            Shortsleeve gave a rate estimate of $0.049 per kilowatt-hour if the deal goes through before 2020, a savings of roughly $30,000 a year in electricity costs to the school. In 2020, the offered rate could increase to $0.059, Shortsleeve said.

            Still, if this project does not come to fruition, White said RMS, like Old Rochester Regional High School, could look to parking lot solar canopies for generating solar energy. But like the roof-mounted solar project, time is of the essence in order to lock-in the lowest rates for a higher incentive.

            In other energy-related matters, Facilities Director Gene Jones had been looking into performing an energy assessment of the school with Mass Save to finds ways to decrease energy consumption, especially through LED light replacements.

            “And we have in other buildings across the other districts the opportunity to put LED lighting in,” said White. However, RMS will have to hold off on any energy assessments with Mass Save as the Town of Rochester performs its own requirements in its quest for Green Community designation. White said he did not want a school district-led energy assessment to interfere with the town’s own efforts.

            “We are constantly looking for ways to save energy, including the possibility of getting the lighting in this building addressed as well,” said White. “We’re hoping that that will happen through the Green Community grant application that the town is doing.”

            “I think it’s great opportunity for us to work hand-in-hand with the town as well,” said committee member Tina Rood.

            The next meeting of the Rochester School Committee is scheduled for November 7 at 6:30 pm at Rochester Memorial School.

Rochester School Committee

By Jean Perry

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