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Salmon River takes strides towards sustainability with new solar energy initiative

Written by on April 5, 2024 Filed in District Announcements

Salmon River Central School District is pleased to announce an upcoming capital project vote aimed at taking another major step forward in its commitment to sustainability and environmental stewardship with a new solar energy project. This project reflects the district’s dedication to reducing its carbon footprint while providing valuable educational opportunities for students and community members.

On March 20, 2024, after nearly a year of research, discussions and meetings, the Board of Education approved plans to move forward with a $16 million solar project.  The solar energy initiative, spearheaded by Superintendent Dr. Stanley Harper, involves the installation of a 5-megawatt solar array on approximately 16 acres of excess property on the main campus at Salmon River. These solar panels will harness the abundant renewable energy provided by the sun, offsetting the District’s electricity consumption.

A request for proposal (RFP) was issued in March to obtain proposals from solar companies for an energy performance contract (EPC) to install the solar panels and oversee the project. With the EPC agreement, the district will own the solar panels and have an 18-year maintenance agreement with the vendor to cover anything that may go wrong with the system. The vendor will also maintain the land around the unit, providing mowing and weeding as necessary.

Key highlights of the initiative include:

  1. Environmental Impact: By harnessing solar energy, Salmon River will eliminate its reliance on traditional energy sources, resulting in a reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and other pollutants.
  2. Educational Opportunities: The installation of solar panels will serve as a hands-on-educational tool for students, providing valuable learning opportunities about renewable energy, sustainability, and environmental conservation.
  3. Financial Savings: The use of solar energy will lead to significant cost savings for the District by eliminating all electricity expenses. Combined with available Federal and State aid, the project will be paid for in less than 1 year.
  4. Community Engagement: The solar energy initiative demonstrates Salmon River’s commitment to community engagement and collaboration. It serves as a tangible example of how public institutions can lead by example in promoting sustainability.

“Building upon our current geo-thermal system, the addition of these solar arrays will move the District forward in accomplishing the goal of reducing utility costs for the district, while becoming a greener community” said Superintendent Dr. Stanley Harper. We’re also excited about setting an example for green technology and the educational opportunity for students to learn about renewable energy.” 

The solar array will be located on 16 acres of unused wooded land that is behind the track. It will not displace any athletic areas and the cross country trail will be maintained around the solar field.

Image of a picture from a satellite showing a campus with a portion of the land labeled as "Location of Proposed Solar Field"

The total cost of the project is $16 million, which the district will borrow through bonds. Since this project is an EPC, the project is required to pay for itself, and there will be no impact on Salmon River taxpayers. New York state building aid and further incentives from NYSERDA (New York State Energy Research and Development Authority) and the Inflation Reduction Act are built into the project. The project will pay for itself with energy savings in less than 1 year with federal and state aid. 

Moreover, the entire cost of electricity will be eliminated by the use of solar power. Historically, the district spends between $250,000 and $425,000 annually for electricity. Once the solar power system is operational the electricity costs will be zero, saving the district about $250,000 to $425,000 annually.

“By embracing solar energy, our school district is not only investing in a sustainable future but also in significant cost savings, ensuring that precious resources are directed where they matter most – towards the education and well-being of our students” said Superintendent Dr. Stanley Harper. “It’s a win-win for the Salmon River community.”

Salmon River urges eligible voters to participate in the upcoming annual election on May 21, 2024, from 12-8 p.m., at Salmon River Central School’s Board Room, 637 County Route 1 in Fort Covington, and make their voices heard. By investing in our schools, we are investing in the future of our community and ensuring that every student has the opportunity to thrive.

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