WVCSD solar power project surpassing estimated savings


WVCSD solar power project surpassing estimated savings

September 19, 2019
An aerial image of the solar power project, showing the entire solar field framed by green grass and trees.

An aerial view of the WVCSD solar power project.

Since activated on the sunny, rolling field downhill from Sanfordville Elementary on February of 2018, and through July of 2019, the District’s solar array has generated $519,879 in energy credits, offsetting roughly 75 percent of the District’s electrical energy costs. 

The largest school-district-owned solar project in New York, Warwick Valley’s facility spans 7,866 solar panels and 33 inverters, and generates a minimum of 2,419,000 kilowatt hours of electricity each year. 

“We couldn’t feel more gratified with the return on the District’s investment in solar energy,” said Superintendent of Schools Dr. David Leach. “We are committed to pursuing a bold yet sustainable and responsible vision for our schools and our students’ future. To sustain our investment in innovation in education, we must be equally invested in responsible, cost-saving efficiencies and forward-thinking solutions to today’s challenges.”  

The power generated by the solar field feeds into Orange & Rockland’s power grid and comes back to the District in the form of monetary credits. Since going online in February 2018, the array has generated about 4,500,000 kWh of electricity. 

“The energy savings from the solar project have already surpassed our initial estimates, producing 10 percent more electricity than projected,” said Timothy Holmes, the District’s Assistant Superintendent for Business who oversaw the solar array’s project construction. “While production is tied to weather, and we’ve had some less-than-favorable seasons, a year and a half later the project has exceeded our expectations.” 

The solar power project is part of an Energy Performance Contract (EPC), approved and aided by New York State, and will qualify for incentives through the NYS Energy Research & Development Authority. As an EPC, the solar array must pay for itself within 18 years. The total cost of the project was $5.7 million, with more than $3.1 million covered with New York State aid and grants. The debt service costs are offset by the energy savings.

“Originally, we estimated the project would pay for itself after 12.82 years,” Mr. Holmes said. “We are well on our way to make good on those projections.” 

In addition to energy-related factors, the scrupulous research and planning preceding the seven-month construction of the solar project addressed concerns for student safety, local zoning laws and the visual impact. The facility is equipped with fencing and security cameras and is surrounded by 180 evergreens to provide year-round tree cover, as well as a natural visual barrier.

Warwick Valley’s many environmentally-minded initiatives have earned all its schools Green Ribbon designations by the U.S. Department of Education. 


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