North weighs investing in solar power

Nick Hedrick | nhedrick@jrpress.com

LINDEN — Could solar power be on the horizon for North Montgomery schools?

An energy company has made the pitch for ground-mounted solar panels at Sommer and Pleasant Hill Elementary, where the district could get the most bang for its buck reducing energy costs.

Missouri-based Influent Energy, which has overseen projects in 17 states, would develop, engineer and construct and own the 14.4 megawatt systems using local contractors and shop out the financing. North Montgomery would own the power.

“At no point are we ever going to ask a dime from the school district,” commercial energy manager Curt Hayward told school board members in an informational presentation this week.

The district has asked members to further discuss the proposal at June’s board retreat.

The two schools would cut its energy costs by a little more than $90,000 in one year combined, according to the company’s analysis of the district’s energy bills. The district would be asked to commit to the systems for 30 years.

Influent selected the schools based on the amount of the savings the panels would generate, Hayward said. He said the company plans to undertake 75-80 school solar projects this year. Hayward has met with a district in Bloomfield, so far the only other Indiana school under consideration.

“I mean, from the presentation and what you’re saying, I can’t believe you don’t just have schools beating your doors down,” board member Jarrod Zachary said during an extensive question-and-answer session following the presentation.

“Listen, we’ve emailed every school in the state of Indiana,” Hayward said.

Influent also provides a solar energy curriculum for the students, who could keep track of the energy savings on a screen in the school lobby.