School taps Sundog for big solar project



BAR HARBOR — Sundog Solar has been chosen to install a solar panel array on the roof of Mount Desert Island High School to meet all the school’s electricity needs.

The high school trustees voted unanimously Jan. 2 to enter into a contract with Sundog for installation of the panels this summer. ReVision Energy also had submitted a proposal for the project.

Both companies proposed a power purchase agreement (PPA) under which they would install the solar array at no initial cost to the school. The school would pay them for electricity for six or seven years, at which time the school would buy the solar equipment. From then on, the school would pay nothing for the electricity generated.

ReVision said in its proposal that the high school could purchase the solar equipment after six years for $634,614. With Sundog, the buyout will come after seven years, and the price will be $364,500.

Sundog said its installation cost would be $810,000 and that the annual power output would be 515,500 kilowatts.

ReVision said its cost to install the solar panels and related equipment would be $835,994 and that the system would generate 494,362 kilowatts of electricity a year.

The high school currently pays Emera Maine 17 cents per kilowatt hour of electricity for a total of about $110,000 a year. Sundog will charge 19 cents per kilowatt hour until the school purchases the system. ReVision would have charged 20.6 cents.

High school Principal Matt Haney said he and Joe Blotnick, coordinator of A Climate to Thrive, carefully reviewed the two proposals and met with officials of both solar companies.

“Each had some strengths,” Haney told the trustees. “ReVision primarily has a little bit more capacity, a little bit more experience, more personnel on hand.

“Sundog has shown the ability to do major projects but hasn’t done as many of them. They are pretty invested in our community. They put out a good product and their price was much more competitive.”

Blotnick said he thought ReVision’s price was higher because it has more overhead costs.

“Putting panels on the roof is not rocket science, and we feel that both companies could do a really good job,” he said. “But when you look at the numbers, they’re certainly more favorable for Sundog.”

Haney said another factor in Sundog’s favor was that its engineers took into account that a portion of the high school’s roof likely will need to be replaced within the next 10 years or so.

“So, their plan is to put the panels as much as possible in other places,” he said.

Trustee Keri Hayes said she had spoken with Chuck Piper, co-owner of Sundog, about his company’s price.

“I feel like … Chuck really sharpened his pencil. It’s not a small difference,” she said of the two companies’ quotes. “So, to me, it’s a huge deal.”

In addition to serving as a high school trustee, Hayes is a member of Tremont’s Solar Task Force. She said she and other town officials have been very pleased with Sundog’s work in planning and installing a solar array on the town’s former landfill.

The high school project will be more than twice as large as the one in Tremont and the largest that Sundog has undertaken to date. Installation of the solar panels on the school’s roof is expected to be completed by the end of this summer.

 

Former student sowed seeds for solar

PHOTO COURTESY OF DREW RICH

BAR HARBOR — Drew Rich, a Tremont resident who graduated from Mount Desert Island High School in 2017, sowed the seeds that will soon be sprouting solar panels on the school’s roof.

For his Senior Exhibition project, he researched the feasibility of using solar power to meet at least some of the school’s electricity needs.

“With the climate we are heading towards, I think any little step we can take to mitigate the effects will be beneficial,” Rich said Monday. “That was my thinking when I chose the project.”

After educating himself about the technical aspects of solar power generation, he began looking for locations on the high school campus that might be suitable for a solar array.

“I looked at a bunch of different places, and my final thought was the roof,” said Rich, who is now a student at the University of Miami.

He got in touch with officials at ReVision Energy, who helped him develop a proposal for installing a solar array and a draft power purchase agreement (PPA). But because of the state of the technology at the time, ReVision said that amassing so many solar panels on the roof wasn’t feasible, according to Rich. So, he went back to considering sites on the ground, but all of them presented problems.

“So, it never really panned out,” Rich said. “But I think it got a lot of people thinking.”

High School Principal Matt Haney arranged for Rich to present his ideas to the school’s board of trustees, which is responsible for buildings and grounds.

“I think they were very interested, very receptive to the idea,” he said. “From my perspective, it looked like this was a huge possibility.

“I’m really glad it’s actually working out and I’m proud to have been a part of it.”

The high school trustees last week voted to have Sundog Solar install a solar array on the roof and to enter into a PPA with the company.

Rich said he has read Sundog’s proposal and found it very impressive.

“They’ve done a great job,” he said.

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. dbroom@mdislander.com

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