Solar planned at elementary schools

An energy developer has plans to start construction of a field of solar panels behind Moss-Nuckols Elementary School by the end of the year. Similar projects are in the works at the other three K-5 schools.

Sun Tribe Solar, of Charlottesville, gave the Louisa County School Board an update at its July 7 meeting. The board gave the company approval to expand the solar field at Jouett Elementary School to match the school’s planned expansion.

The energy the solar panels produce will directly impact the school’s electricity costs. That sets them apart from much larger solar arrays planned or under construction elsewhere in the county that feed energy to the electric grid. 

The elementary schools will save $6 million over the panels’ 30-year lifespan by adopting solar as their preferred energy source, according to Sun Tribe spokesman Rob Corradi. The savings will be 100 percent of energy used at Moss-Nuckols and Jouett, 93 percent at Trevilians and 58 percent at Thomas Jefferson.

The schools’ power purchase agreement with Sun Tribe uses a provision in state law allowing school districts to benefit from reduced energy costs without having to spend money on solar equipment. Sun Tribe will design, build and maintain the panels.

School board members also approved a $681,000 contract with Harman Construction Inc., of Harrisonburg, to build a maintenance storage building on land adjacent to Louisa County Middle School. Work is expected to begin this fall, according to schools spokesman Andrew Woolfolk.

David Childress, schools technology director, provided the board with a revised contract parents are expected to sign when their children receive iPads or Chromebooks to use in school or take home. As part of the contract, parents can choose to pay $20 to enroll in an optional protection plan. If they subscribe to the plan and the equipment is damaged or lost, the schools will replace or repair it at no cost. Parents are responsible for half of the repair cost after a second instance of damage, however.

Childress said the iPads, which students in grades K-2 will use, cost the schools $350 each. The Chromebooks for older students cost $250.

Doug Straley, schools superintendent, and the school board agreed to meet next on July 28 to discuss final details about the upcoming school year. School doors will open on Aug. 13.

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