School Board moving forward with solar subscription
District 51 School Board members voted unanimously Tuesday to proceed with a plan to subscribe to a solar garden that will be operated by an outside party on district land.
San Francisco-based solar development firm EcoPlexus Inc. plans to built a “garden” of solar panels on a 10.56 acre property the school district owns at 2930 D 1/4 Road.
School board members approved an option to lease agreement for the land June 18 and Grand Junction Planning Commissioners approved a conditional use permit for the project June 25.
The remaining piece of the puzzle for construction to begin is approval of an agreement for the district to subscribe to receive 40 percent of the energy produced by the solar garden. Tuesday’s vote allows subscription negotiations between the district and EcoPlexus to begin.
The 2-megawatt project needs at least 10 subscribers, according to District 51 Resource Conservation Manager Eric Anderson. Each subscriber would get discounted energy prices through Xcel Energy, which would funnel all of the solar energy into its electrical system and handle energy credits awarded to project subscribers.
“We would stand to save $53,000 in the first year” of the 20-year agreement, Anderson told the board.
If all goes as planned, EcoPlexus will have the project operational within nine months of a subscription agreement and operate the garden continuously for the next two decades or sell to another firm who will operate it. Worst-case scenarios, Anderson said, would be if the value of energy credits will erode over time or EcoPlexus would default.
Board members decided even with the worst scenario, there would be potential for the district to sell the high quality, Canadian solar panels on the project.
Board President Greg Mikolai said if someone acquired the project through a lien or purchase, they would either operate it as usual or leave the equipment alone, which would make it the district’s property. “That means we either continue as we are, they remove the equipment, or they abandon it and we operate it or salvage it,” Mikolai said.
“We don’t really want to own this,” Anderson said. “Do we want to save money? Yes. Do we want to make use of a piece of land currently generating zero revenue for us? Yes.”