FUSD solar power project to go forward
At the Flagstaff Unified School District (FUSD) Governing Board meeting on April 26, the board voted unanimously to approve a grant and power purchase agreement with Kennedy Partners to develop solar power systems for two schools, Puente de Hozho and DeMiguel Elementary.
The two projects are expected to cost a total of $1.6 million to be built operational by December.
Allison Suriano, a senior member of Kennedy Partners, said that while construction will cost $1.6 million, all the district will have to pay for is the power that is generated.
“It’s a zero cost [for the district] under our model: We provide the system at no cost to the district and then they pay for the system by paying for the power it produces,” Suriano said. “So they’re just taking money they were paying to APS [Arizona Public Service] for their bills and using it to pay for the power the system produces.”
Robert Kuhn, assistant superintendent for operations for FUSD, said the district had three reasons for the solar power project.
“The first one is that we’re energy-efficisizing our schools,” Kuhn said. “Which means we were doing energy retrofits. Number two, you have the economy. And three, it allows us to lower our utility bills. So, energy efficiency — we can get more capital out of it, and it’s good for the environment.”
Kuhn said he is hopeful for the economic impact of the solar systems at the two schools.
“The economic benefits will help us expand — instead of paying utility bills, we’re going to be able to move that money from M&O [Management and Operations],” Kuhn said. “We’re hoping to cut the utility bills by about a quarter, but that’s hard to say until we actually start producing. I think we’re going to lower our electric bill about $600,000.”
With current district utility expenses estimated at $4 million, a $600,000 reduction will account for a 15 percent reduction in utility costs for the district.
Suriano explained why Kennedy Partners is able to shoulder the cost of construction and offer lower utility rates than APS.
“We always start them out lower than the current blended rate, and then we put a little bit of an escalator on it,” Suriano said. “I believe it’s 3 percent per year over the 20-year term.”
Suriano also said the schools can expect to use the systems for a majority of their power needs.
“We’re going to produce between 80 and 85 percent of the power they use using the panels,” Suriano said. “So they’re going to pay a bill to us at the lower rate for the power the system produces. So 80 percent of their bill at the very first year will be at the lower rate. The rest of their bill will be powered by APS, so that’s at night, when the panels aren’t producing.”