High school solar project set to start

BAR HARBOR — Structural engineers have determined that the Mount Desert Island High School roof is strong enough to support an array of solar panels designed to meet all of the school’s electricity needs, and the delivery of materials for the project is scheduled for next week.

“We’re excited to get going on it, and it should go pretty smoothly,” said Sundog co-owner Chuck Piper.

Asked when installation will be finished, he said, “We’re giving an outside date of the end of August, but I think we’ll be done before then.”

Rob Jordan, chairman of the high school’s board of trustees, said, “Their goal is to get the [solar panels] up as soon as possible to take advantage of the longer days of the year.”

The solar array is projected to produce 515,500 kilowatts of electricity over the course of a year.

Jordan said installation of the solar panels will not require the high school’s roof to be punctured. “They will just sit on the rooftop,” he said.

Piper explained that Sundog will assemble a “weighted system” from a company called Aerocompact that uses metal trays to hold the solar panels in place.

“It’s a system we’ve used before that’s been put in world-wide,” he said. “One of these systems survived the hurricane in Puerto Rico unscathed.”

The high school trustees, who are responsible for the school’s buildings and grounds, voted in January to enter into a power purchase agreement with Sundog, under which the school would pay none of the estimated $810,000 cost of materials and installation.

Once the system is up and running, the high school will pay Sundog 19 cents per kilowatt hour for the electricity it uses. The school currently pays Emera Maine 17 cents per kilowatt hour for a total of about $110,000 a year.

After seven years, the school can buy the solar power system from Sundog for $364,500. From then on, the school would pay nothing for the electricity generated.

The high school project will be the largest that Sundog, which is based in Searsport, has undertaken to date. It recently completed the installation of a solar array on the former town landfill in Tremont.

Dick Broom

Dick Broom

Reporter at Mount Desert Islander
Dick Broom covers the towns of Mount Desert and Southwest Harbor, Mount Desert Island High School and the school system board and superintendent's office. He enjoys hiking with his golden retriever and finding new places for her to swim. [email protected]

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