Gallia Local to go ‘solar’ and save

By Morgan McKinniss -

GALLIA COUNTY — Gallia County Local Schools is preparing for the final stages in their energy efficient program as the solar panel systems will be energized by January 2018.

According to Doug Cox of Vista, a consultation firm that has managed the project for the district, two of the solar yards on AEP systems will be energized by Jan. 1, and two on Buckeye Rural systems will go live shortly after.

“I’m glad to say that, this week we have the paperwork closures being completed,” said Cox. “You can imagine it’s like closing on the house, everything has to be coordinated.”

The project started in 2013 researching the best options to improve the energy efficiency of the district buildings, including lighting, heating, and cooling. Since then, improved lighting has been installed saving 32 percent in costs alone. Automated management systems have also been installed that work with the HVAC systems and lighting to help improve cost efficiency. According to Cox, turning systems off when they are not in use is the best way to save money.

Four solar photo-voltaic (PV) systems were installed in 2016, and have yet to be energized. Two are at the River Valley complex, one is at Addaville Elementary, and the fourth at Southwestern Elementary. According to Cox, the hold up has been in paperwork and legislation at the state level.

“All of our paperwork has been completed with both utilities. I will say it has been a bit of a struggle, there are some differences between AEP and Buckeye Rural that have made the process difficult,” said Cox.

‘The significance of all of the solar fields combined is probably in the neighborhood of 40,000 dollars per year to the district,” said Cox.

The solar fields also cost the district nothing to install. The PV systems are owned by a third party company which pays for and owns the solar fields, and sells the electricity produced to the district at a set rate in exchange for building the solar fields on district property. With no upfront costs, the district stands to save significant money in utility bills, according to Cox.

Vista also did the same project with the Gallipolis City School District, explaining that the two projects are very similar in scope and size.

“The size of the program here is almost exactly the same size of the program there,” said Cox. “The impact that we’ve had there, we’ve looked at these numbers and have taken them from little over $750,000 annually in their expenses down to about $550,000.”

Cox explained that the savings in this program is designated to pay for the upgrades, although any additional savings are kept by the district.

“We’ve been over-saving in their project to the tune of about $30,000 extra per year, which helps them do what their job is: to educate students.”

Cox was pleased to report that the county schools will receive a similar report on savings, saving more money to help better educate students.

“The (solar fields) will also provide some curriculum for our staff,” said Superintendent Jude Meyers. “Some hands on learning, but understanding alternative energy.”

By Morgan McKinniss

Reach Morgan McKinniss at 740-446-2342.

Reach Morgan McKinniss at 740-446-2342.