School requests solar proposals

BAR HARBOR — Two solar energy companies, ReVision Energy and Sundog Solar, will be asked to submit proposals for designing and installing a solar energy system to supply all of the electricity for Mount Desert Island High School.

On the recommendation of Principal Matt Haney, the school’s trustees voted last week to request the proposals from the two companies. They were the only two that had responded to an earlier request to submit a report on their qualifications for such a project.

Their first task will be to inspect the school’s roof and answer a make-or-break question: Is the roof strong enough to support a solar array large enough to generate 500 kilowatts of electricity?

If the answer is yes, Haney said, “We would be looking for a power purchase agreement (PPA), which does not cost us anything up front. The company we choose would install the system at their expense.

“They would own the system and the power, and they would sell us the power at a fixed rate as opposed to us buying it through Emera [Maine]. Generally that fixed rate is less than what we pay Emera.”

Haney said that at the end of the contract period, which is typically six or seven years, the school would have the opportunity to buy the solar system from whichever company installed it.

“From then on, we would not have to pay for any power because we would own the system, we would own the solar panels, we would own the power,” he said.

That describes the agreement that ReVision currently has with the town of Bar Harbor for solar arrays at its public works garage and with Mount Desert for the array on its highway garage. And it’s the same type of arrangement that Sundog has with Tremont to install a solar array on the town’s former landfill.

Haney said Joe Blotnick, co-coordinator of the MDI sustainability organization A Climate to Thrive, did much of the work on the request for qualifications that the high school issued this spring and will be helping to prepare the request for proposals from the two solar companies.

He said that, in comparing the two companies, Blotnick found that ReVision has several more years of experience than Sundog, has many more employees and customers and has entered into many more power purchase agreements.

“Sundog has yet to do something of this particular scope and scale,” Haney said, referring to the high school project. “However, Sundog appears to be an up and coming company. So the recommendation that Joe [Blotnick] gave me, and I concur, is that we should ask both of these companies for a proposal.”

ReVision Energy is based in Liberty, Sundog Solar in Searsport.

Rob Jordan, a member of the high school trustees, said he thought the school should pursue the solar energy project, even if the price of electricity under the PPA for the next six or seven years is the same as Emera’s rate.

“It would be great to save money on utility bills, but just moving forward with the technology makes sense to me,” he said.

Fellow trustee Keri Hayes, who served on Tremont’s solar task force, agreed with Jordan and added, “I think it’s the right thing to do for the environment.”

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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