VENTNOR — The Board of Education on Wednesday, July 26, heard a presentation by Victor A. Maene of Mister Energy about the benefits of installing a solar canopy on the parking lot at the Ventnor Educational Community Complex.
But before anything is built, the city would have to obtain approval from the National Park Service to allow construction of the solar array.
Maene said the district could experience significant savings on the cost of supplying the school with about 1.5 megawatts of energy through a fixed-rate power purchase agreement.
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Board President James Pacanowski said his preference would be to use the parking lot rather than putting solar panels on the roof, which is being repaired.
“I think this type of energy savings is the wave of the future,” Pacanowski said. “The ideal situation would be to use the parking lot, but we have the issue with the National Park Service. We don’t know if that is a six-month or six-year thing.”
The parking area under consideration is part of yet-to-be-finalized conversion by the National Park Service from active to passive recreational use.
The school district had received funding from the park service in 1975 for active recreation at the site, including recreation fields, basketball and street hockey courts, a jogging track and playground area. However, a portion of Lot 1 was later used without park service approval to create a parking area when the 2001 addition to the school was built.
According to city Administrator Maria Mento, the park service still holds an active recreation deed restriction on a portion of Lot 1. The city would like the use converted to passive recreation. The park service also wants compensation for the loss of parkland on Lot 3, which is the site of a former driving range. Compensation would include land of equal size and fair market value totaling about 6.2 acres.
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Mento said the state Department of Environmental Protection would permit solar to be installed on any area not encumbered with deed restrictions, but not on the deed-restricted area.
The city and school district are working to remove the deed restrictions.
Maene said his company has installed solar arrays in parking lots at Joe Canal’s Discount Liquor Outlet in Egg Harbor Township, Atlantic Cape Community College, Ramapo University and Stockton University.
Under the power purchase agreement, the district would lease the panels, which would be maintained by the contractor, in exchange for a 5-cent reduction in the cost per kilowatt hour of electricity supplied to the school, he said.
“Assumption Regional School saved $50,000 a year,” he said.
There would be no capital outlay for the district in a power purchase agreement, which is essentially a lease. All that would be needed is two years of financial statements, he said.
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The solar panels offer motorists cover from the rain and shade for automobiles.
“People are fighting to park under them,” Maene said.
Company engineers would need to assess the condition of the parking lot before installing the posts that support the panels.
The solar “wafer” panels have a 40-year life expectancy but are guaranteed to put out 85 percent of their original output for 25 years.
Maene said the school would be supplied with a kiosk where students could track the amount of energy being produced by the panels.
“I would be available to do lectures and presentations for the students,” he said.
After the deed-restriction issues are settled, the district would more fully investigate the benefits of a lease versus owning a solar system, Pacanowski said.
“That issue is moot until we settle the use issue,” he said.