Timing is everything.
The decision by the Central Regional Board of Education a few years ago to take a chance on solar energy is still paying off, despite the sour solar market, Superintendent Triantafillos Parlapanides said.
"We are golden," Parlapanides said today.
"Back in 2008, we started looking at geothermal, wind and solar to see what would be the best for Central," he said.
Four years later, more than 6,000 solar panels stud the back fields of Central Regional High School and Middle School. The district paid nothing to solar energy firm Dobco to install the panels.
Today Central pays Dobco roughly nine cents a kilowatt hour for electricity, compared to the market rate of roughly 17 cents a kilowatt hour, Parlapanides said.
Dobco makes money from the revenue from Central and Solar Renewal Energy Credits from the state. The state pays Dobco roughly $475 for each credit for energy produced, far more than the current solar credit market, which pays around $95 a credit.
"We are locked in for 15 years at $475," Parlapanides said.
The $10 million project was financed through a 15-year power purchase agreement with Dobco that calls for the district to pay set amounts per kilowatt hour for the energy the panels produce.
"We are only paying a monthly fee per kilowatt hour for the energy actually produced," O'Shea said. "It made sense for us to do it because we are paying less per kilowatt hour than we would have pay to the electric company."
The district is locked into a three percent increase in energy costs for 15 years.
"So if energy prices were to soar in a few years, we won't be impacted," O'Shea said.
Central has several options when the power purchase agreement expires down the road, he said.
The district could opt for a new power agreement for additional years; have the system removed Dobco's expense or purchase the system at a fair market value determined by an independent appraiser, O'Shea said.
Parlapanides praised Central Regional school board members for their willingness to consider the project.
"We were able to get it done quickly," he said. "We did our homework. Timing is everything."