Thursday, June 27, 2013

Ain't No Sunshine


You may have caught the article in yesterday's paper about some solar projects at six Worcester Public Schools. Alternatively, you may have caught the item on last week's City Council agenda on which the article is based. 
That last was the first I'd heard of it, which meant that I had a pretty good idea that we probably weren't going to be putting solar panels on six schools this summer (yes, we are kept better informed than that, and, rest assured, something that major is going up on the blog!). 

This afternoon, we received the following email from Superintendent Boone: 
The City Manager last week notified the City Council of solar projects at several WPS schools and this report appeared in yesterday’s Worcester Telegram.  While my administration supports alternative energy options for our schools, the City Manager’s report and the newspaper article failed to emphasize that these are all proposed projects.   
There are many benefits to this project and I look forward to actually discussing these projects with the City Manager in the near future.   
The report mentions that Sullivan Middle has been completed.  Actually, no work has been done at Sullivan Middle and significant roof work would be needed before solar panels could be installed.  The city does not intend to seal the existing roof as it is planning with the other schools due to costs at this site and that places this project in jeopardy.   
South High Community School has been identified in our Statement of Interest submittal to MSBA as our priority project.  We need determine the scope of MSBA work that may occur at the school before we invest in roof repairs and the installation of solar arrays on the roof of the school.  
The report states that roof sealing at these schools will occur this summer.  Once there is full agreement on a variety of outstanding issues, this work will commence, but this summer looks too aggressive.   
The ability to extend the existing roofs by another 20 years would allow us to use capital budget funds in other areas in the upcoming years and the potential of having reduced energy costs in our budget are certainly reasons that we will explore these projects, but my administration is undertaking a complete review and conducting due diligence before any work begins.  I intend to execute a memorandum of understanding to ensure all facets of these projects are known upfront.   
I intend to keep you informed of this potentially exciting work.  Since all of these projects are still proposed, we were not at a stage where we believed that an update was timely. 
Emphasis NOT added.

A bit more from me: we had to adjust this year's (FY13) accounts due to WPS not recooping as much money as was predicted from the already completed ESCo projects. We already had reason, but now have more to look very carefully at any major outlay of funds (and facilities resources) to see if the investment actually has a reasonable return. Thus far, we're not seeing those borne out.
We've also had excellent success of late with our MSBA submissions. If we have roof work to do (and, no argument from me, we do), overlooking an 80% reimbursement to jump the gun on solar panels doesn't make a lot of sense. The roof is the priority.
Finally, as Superintendent Boone says above: we just this spring submitted South as our number one priority for major renovation and replacement. I know we're serious about that. It doesn't look very serious, though, to have a proposal to put solar panels on the roof of a building that we're hoping to see a major rehab or rebuild on within the next few years. 

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