Albemarle Considers Solar Panels for Seven Schools

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Solar panels at Henley Middle School Solar panels at Henley Middle School
Henley Middle School solar powered sculpture Henley Middle School solar powered sculpture

Albemarle County has a plan to harness the sun's rays to power its schools. Thursday night, the Albemarle County School Board will consider installing solar panels on several schools in a deal that could potentially save taxpayers tens of thousands of dollars over the next two decades.

Albemarle is looking to become the first public school system in the commonwealth to tap into the sun's rays through a long-term solar power purchase agreement. The school board will consider signing a solar power purchase agreement with Staunton-based Secure Futures during its meeting Thursday night.

Secure Futures would own the solar panels and the schools would buy back the energy to power its buildings.

“As the systems generate electricity, we pay for the power that's generated,” said Lindsay Snoddy, the Albemarle County Public Schools program manager for environmental energy and sustainability.

The company would install and operate the solar power systems on seven schools: Monticello and Albemarle high schools, Sutherland Middle School, and Baker-Butler, Brownsville, Greer, and Hollymead elementary schools.

The sun could power 14 percent of the electricity needs for each of those buildings. Over a 20-year deal with Secure Futures, the school system expects to save nearly $80,000 compared to Dominion electricity bills.

“One of the main advantages for the solar power purchase agreement is also, you know, what you're paying for power. Currently, our contract with Dominion will change from year to year, and then we have fuel riders which are variable,” said Snoddy.

If the purchase agreement is approved, the schools plan to incorporate the solar installations into classroom activities. A few years ago, Henley Middle School in Crozet used grant funds to put up solar panels. Teachers use them in science experiments and art students even designed a sculpture with moving parts powered by the sun.

Secure Futures would also host several workshops each year with students to help them understand how solar power works.

If the school board approves the agreement, the panels would go up this summer.

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