Using pizza as an analogy, members of The Green Team at Lincoln-Sudbury Regional High School urged members of the School Committee to consider a solar-panelled canopy that would sit over part of the parking lot at the high school, generating much of the electricity needed to operate the school and helping to shield cars from snow and ice during the winter.
Students asked School Committee members to imagine a pizza delivery in which several slices were lost during the delivery, and the recipient saw that half of the pizza box was empty and became angry and threw a few more slices away in frustration. The end result would be just one slice left. They said a solar panel canopy would be like a full box of pizza with no slices being lost or wasted during the delivery process, since it would help to create energy at the site where it's going to be used.
The proposed project would involve a contract with SunEdison, a company that has experience building similar structures for the public sector. SunEdison would install and maintain the structure with no upfront costs to L-S, in exchange for a 20 year contract under which the school would purchase electricity from the company.
The electricity rate would be 13.5 cents per kilowatt hour. The school currently pays 18.5 cents, and consumes about 3.15 million kWh per year, at a cost of $600,000.
Club members said the solar panels would cut electricity usage in half, and remaining electricity would be priced at the lower rate of 13.5 cents per kWh, for savings of about $90,000 in the first year, which they pointed out is money that could go towards other purposes.
The electricity rate over the 20-year contract period would remain at the rate negotiated in 2012, which club officials said could result in even more significant savings in the future, since electricity rates tend to rise by an average of 3 percent per year.
One member of the School Committee asked whether the parking canopy could include charging stations, as electric and hybrid vehicles become more commonplace. Members of the Green Team said charging stations would be possible, but it would create higher costs for the project.
The panels would sit 13 feet above the ground, which would make vandalism or theft difficult, they said.
If the project moves forward, construction is tentatively planned for the summer of 2013, when there would be fewer cars in the lot. In the event that construction extends into the school year, 70 percent of the parking spaces would remain available at all times, they said.
School Committee members were urged to approve the project in 2012, since it's not clear what is going to happen in Congress with tax incentives for energy that are set to expire on the first of the year if they are not extended.
"My education has taught me to care about the environment. We care about this," one student told the Committee. "This is something that is very sustainable."
The School Committee voted unanimously to authorize Superintendent Scott Carpenter to negotiate the contract with the company. He was not in attendace at the meeting because he is taking part in an international education seminar in Germany this week.