Manchester School Board enters into agreement to purchase solar credits


MANCHESTER >> At the May meeting of the Manchester School Board, members discussed a potential solar arrangement, the impending departure of Chairman Jon Wilson, and Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium test results.

Jim Hand of Hand and Sun Solar was in the audience to answer questions about his company's proposal to sell credits from energy generated from the firm's panels at Riley Rink. There would be no up-front charge to the school, and it would save the school district 5 percent on energy credits purchased.

"We, for the last year or so, have had several proposals presented to them regarding solar," said Bennington Rutland Supervisory Union Superintendent Dan French, "It's an environment now where there's some tax credits at stake. Government entities, particularly school districts are good partners for this work."

"Hand and Sun Solar is uniquely positioned to help Manchester Elementary Middle School go solar. Our solar installation at Riley Rink will produce power that can be directed to (Manchester Elementary Middle School), thereby lowering operating costs without installing solar panels directly on the school's roof. We project this installation can save MEMS more than $1,700 in the first year and more than $40,000 over the long term," wrote Thomas Hand, Jim's son, in the proposal.

The agreement would be a 25-year contract, which Hand said would represent no risk to the school. "Hand and Sun Solar's offer provides significant savings with no long term pricing risk," he wrote, "The Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) requires no upfront investment from MEMS and provides savings of 5% on all credits purchased. This unique financial structure allows MEMS to go solar, save money today, and ensure savings for the entire contract term."

Hand and Sun was founded in 2010, and has developed over a dozen projects, including the 144kW array on Langway Motors in Manchester and the 114 kW array on the Dorset School. The firm has looked at placing an array on the roof of MEMS, but found it to be unsuitable.

"I think this is a unique opportunity for this district to take advantage of solar," said French, explaining that what the school pays is based entirely on the credits generated, so if no credits are generated, then school would not be liable for anything.

Jim Hand said that was a fair summary.

"This is not going to make anybody rich," said Hand, "but it's a steady income stream over the next 25 years, where you know what it is. There's no risk involved to you."

He said Green Mountain Power cannot add any more systems of this size at present, and that his project was one of the last to be approved before the state hit its cap. The Southwest Vermont Supervisory Union in Bennington recently had a solar project fall through because the developer did not get the project approved in time.

"What's going to happen in 2017 is, if it's not on a roof, and if it's of a bigger size than 15 kW, they're going to start taking away pennies per kW, so investors like us are not going to be building," he said, "We're lucky we're under this arrangement right now."

The board voted unanimously to enter into the power purchase agreement.

Derek Carson can be reached for comment at 802-447-7567, ext. 122.


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