Story by Shelley Clapper
At the Warwick School Board meeting on Mon., Nov. 14, the Board voted to approve the solar project, to be built on approximately ten acres of property on the Sanfordville campus which is expected to reduce the District’s energy costs by an approximate average of $244,000 per year over 18 years. Timothy Holmes, the Assistant Superintendent for Business, gave a presentation on the project and representatives from Con Edison, along with the District’s engineer, Mark Ruhnke, were available for questions.
Solar Project Highlights
The Solar installation is projected to produce 2,919,000 kilowatt (kWh) hours of electricity each year. The cost of the solar project will be $5,733,030. State aid will cover 53.8 percent of the cost, reducing the amount paid by the District by $3,291,713.
Holmes said, “The District will save $4,393,687 saved over the life of the project. We will receive credits from Orange and Rockland to offset our electricity bill.”
The credits will be for the energy produced by the solar field and reimbursement rates are set by the State. For example, at the rate of .1627 per kWh multiplied by 2,919,000 kilowatts energy produced, the District will receive a credit of $474,921.
The District performed a SEQRA review that resulted in a negative declaration, meaning there will be no environmental impact. The Board of Education unanimously passed the SEQRA resolution.
Holmes explained that several studies had been completed to address potential concerns. An archeological study showed that there would be no impact on archeological or historical resources. A visual assessment, requested by the Town of Warwick, was completed to ensure that the visibility of the solar panels from Sanfordville Rd. and Rte. 94 would be reduced or eliminated. There are plans to build a six-foot-high fence adjacent to the solar array and to plant eight-foot-high evergreen trees along the respective roads to further reduce visibility.
A solar glare study was also completed which showed that the reflection of sunlight from the solar panel surfaces would not have any significant impact on adjacent properties and roadways.
Holmes spoke about the benefits of the solar project for the environment. One kilowatt hour of electricity saved is equal to one less pound of carbon dioxide. The solar field carbon savings would result in 3,362,987 pounds, or 1,681 tons less carbon dioxide each year. An average car uses six tons of carbon dioxide a year-equivalent of taking 280 cars off the road each year.
Holmes indicated that the next step in the process is to submit the project to the State Education Department for approval. Construction should begin in the spring of 2017 and last about four months.
Stacie and Ken Scarpa, local residents who live in the vicinity of the school, aired their concerns during the Public Comment portion of the meeting. Stacie Scarpa asked, “If you put up trees, are they going to be maintained?”
She also asked if the roads would be torn up. A Con Edison representative replied that the roads will not be affected as the power line will be connected overhead. Board President Lynn Lillian responded that the School District would maintain the trees.
The next meeting will be held on Mon., Dec. 12 at 7 p.m. at the Dorothy C. Wilson Education Center, located at 225 West St. in Warwick.