Rutland Town School made a bold move more than ten years ago to build a solar array on their rooftop. The solar array proposed was for 59.8 KW, and it would cost $195,000. Instead of looking for a lease or power purchase agreement that would have yielded a small payback, Rutland Town School funded the array with $97,500 from the Clean Energy Development Fund and a grant from Green Mountain Power for $15,000.
The rest was placed on the ballot to allow the school to take a bond for up to $130,000 to cover the balance, plus an independent advisor to shepherd the project. If Town residents approved the bond vote, Rutland Town School would own the array that would produce clean energy for decades and save the school more than a quarter of a million dollars.
For two years, the Rutland School energy committee worked toward this goal, and with public meetings and an aggressive phone calling campaign, the bill easily passed.
Unfortunately, the school board chose a solar company an hour and a half away who decided to outsource the work. The first winter, three panels came off their racks, a nearly unheard-of condition, and other problems arose over the years. Ten years on, the system was so underperforming that the school sought out Same Sun of Vermont’s service division Solar PROforamance Services (SPS) to evaluate the solar array’s condition.
SPS offered three options, and to the school board’s credit, they chose the option that would bring the solar array to full effectiveness and 2022 electrical standards, including rapid shutdown for fire protection. The majority of labor was done over the students February break, as to not disrupt the school day or distract the students.
Rutland Town School’s solar array had more than paid for itself before serious problems began. The money paid to re-install the system correctly and up to code will quickly pay for itself in the solar credits the school enjoys from Green Mountain Power. Since the array was commissioned on March 10th, inspected, and left generating on March 18th, it has saved the school over $2000 in the first six weeks.