TRENTON — Trenton Elementary School could become the second school in the Mount Desert Island Regional School System — after MDI High School — to install solar panels on its roof.
It could happen as soon as next summer if voters at the May town meeting approve the school’s proposed budget.
School officials had considered using reserve funds this fiscal year to cover the estimated $60,000 cost of replacing the roof over several classrooms where the panels would be installed, as well as over the library. But that would have largely depleted the school’s reserves for facility repairs and improvements.
The Trenton selectmen had indicated that, if that happened and then some large emergency expense arose, the town would cover it.
But on the recommendation of Superintendent Marc Gousse, the school committee voted Oct. 8 to defer the roof project until next fiscal year so that the cost could be included in the 2020-2021 budget.
“We can establish this as a priority so that when the budget discussions are being held and then we go to town meeting, folks have an opportunity to weigh in,” Gousse said. “And you’ll know very early on through deliberations whether this is something the community supports.”
Principal Mike Zboray said the $60,000 estimate for the roof work is the average of quotes the school received from contractors last year.
He said that, if it weren’t for the proposed solar array, the roof over the classrooms wouldn’t need to be replaced yet. But he said it makes sense to do it now to ensure that the solar panels won’t have to be taken off and put back on for many of years.
If voters approve a school budget that includes the cost of the roof work, Zboray said that project and the installation of solar panels could be done next summer.
As with the high school and other recent solar projects on Mount Desert Island, the solar panels likely would be installed at Trenton Elementary under a power purchase agreement (PPA). That means the solar company would install the panels at no initial cost to the school, and the school would then pay the solar company for the electricity it uses. After six or seven years, the school would have the option of buying the solar array and paying nothing for its electricity from then on.