Neshaminy School District plans massive solar array for steady fuel source

    Installation of a solar array will soon begin on the roofs of Neshaminy High School and Maple Point Middle School in Bucks County.  The 400,000-square-foot project will have one of the largest solar capacities in the state. 

    The $15 million project, funded through state energy grants, federal tax credits and money from investors, is expected to provide about 90 percent of the schools’ electricity.

    The Neshaminy School District was just looking for a little stability — a predictable relationship, instead of riding the roller-coaster of utility prices.”So we went out and looked for companies that could provide solar energy to us at a fixed cost with a minimal increase over the years that we can budget for,” says Paul Minotti. director of facilities and operations for the Neshaminy district. “Right now, we buy electric and natural gas and things on the open market. And that price fluctuates.”Minotti said the solar project is a new step, but he’s confident it will be a money saver. At no cost to the district, the project is being done through what’s called a “power-purchase agreement.” Weatherproofing Technologies Inc., the Ohio-based company that’s installing the solar array, will sell the electricity generated back to the district at a fixed price that’s lower than what the schools expect to pay normally.Christina Simeone, director of the PennFuture “Energy Center,” a nonprofit environmental advocacy organization, is very familiar with this type of project.”In the solar space, there are different providers, SunRun being one that offers these types of solar leases at the residential and commercial level,” Simeone said. “But I think people would be surprised how common these power-purchase agreements are, they’re just not aware that they exist.”Minotti said the project sets a good example for the students:”It’s a green product, it’s things that the nation’s looking toward — less fossil fuels,” he said. “So we’re also going to use it as a teaching tool in the classroom.”Construction is expected to take 10 months.  

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