NEWFANE -- The Brookline-Newfane Joint School Board wants voters’ permission to "go green."
The board has announced a special joint-district meeting for 7 p.m. June 12 at NewBrook Elementary for votes on two initiatives -- entering into a lease agreement for solar panels on the school property and installation of a new HVAC system that will require no heating fuel.
The latter project involves a $150,000 loan, but board Chairman Ken McFadden said the two projects -- when taken together -- will save the school money in the long term while also making NewBrook much more environmentally friendly.
"I am just excited," McFadden said. "We’ve been working on this for a long time, and we’re finally going to get it to the voters."
The solar portion of the project is representative of a recent trend in which photovoltaic-array developers, working under Vermont’s net-metering law, have been pursuing agreements with municipal governments and schools. Developers take advantage of tax credits associated with solar power while governmental entities get credits on their utility bills.
The Brookline-Newfane board, in the special meeting’s first article, is asking for authorization to "enter into a solar energy services lease agreement for the installation of photovoltaic solar cells (together with net metering) which will produce a minimum of 250 kilowatts of electricity.
McFadden said the idea is for a private developer to lease space on school property, located off Route 30 in Newfane, and to build a solar array there.
That array would generate money-saving credits on NewBrook’s utility bills to the point that the school would have no electricity costs, McFadden said. In fact, the project could generate additional credits that could be offered to another entity.
"That’s something we’d have to work out," McFadden said.
The board has not yet chosen a developer for the proposed project. If voters give their approval on June 12, board members would advertise for bids, McFadden said.
The special meeting’s second article requests authorization to install a new heating/ventilation/air conditioning system. It would be an "air-to-air heat-exchanger system to replace the current, obsolete system," according to a meeting warning issued by the school board.
The board also needs permission to finance the project with a "short-term, five-year loan for $150,000," McFadden said.
There are big benefits to installing the new HVAC system, he added.
"It means no fuel," McFadden said. "It will be run by electricity, and we’ll be producing our own electricity (via the solar project). The cost of heating fuel is through the roof, and it’s not getting any lower."
Officials have been discussing and studying the changes for about five years. McFadden credited NewBrook Principal Chris Pratt for having "taken the ball and really moved along with it" over the past several years.
"It’s a long process. We’ve done a lot of research," McFadden said.
He added that "our goal is to have a zero-carbon footprint."
Mike Faher can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 802-254-2311, ext. 275.