Pioneer School Committee hears solar energy proposal for high school

  • Never Ending Solar Trust LLC has proposed constructing a 470 kilowatt solar canopy system in the north and south parking lots at Pioneer Valley Regional School. Staff Photo/ZACK DeLUCA

  • A possible plan by Never Ending Solar Trust LLC to install solar panels on the roof of the Bernardston Elementary School will need to be discussed with the Bernardston Selectboard, as the building is owned by Bernardston. Staff Photo/ZACK DeLUCA

Staff Writer
Published: 1/16/2020 5:36:49 PM

NORTHFIELD — A potential solar project design at the Pioneer Valley Regional School is sized to cover 80 percent of the building’s electrical usage, which could reduce the school’s energy costs by 10 to 11 percent.

During last week’s Pioneer Valley Regional School District School Committee meeting, members heard from Tom Strungo, of Never Ending Solar Trust LLC, about a plan for canopy structures in the north and south parking lots at Pioneer. Strungo also gave a presentation to the Building and Grounds Subcommittee earlier in the week.

“There would be no cost to the district,” Superintendent Jonathan Scagel said. “The project is funded by private investors.”

Strungo said the solar panels could reduce the school building’s energy bill by 10 to 11½ percent. Projections for quantified financial savings are still unknown at this time, though Strungo said it would “reduce electric costs significantly.” He estimated the company has spent roughly $4,000 out of its own pocket, so far, for engineers to research and work on the proposal.

The solar panel canopies would be part of a “behind the meter” system, Strungo said, which he described as a renewable energy generating facility that produces power on-site. He estimated the system could supply roughly 80 to 90 percent of the school’s energy.

Based on the design presented, the north and south parking lots would feature a 470 kilowatt system. The canopies would be constructed to cover existing parking spaces. Strungo said this would not change the number of parking spots, but some spots may need to be designated for compact cars.

The canopy structures would be approximately 15 feet high, with a 4 percent pitch for snow and water to melt or slide off. There would be gutters on the panels to catch water.

“Having snow cover the panels is the nature of solar in New England,” Strungo said.

He did note that, typically, snow melts off the panels very quickly and inability for them to absorb sunlight is not a concern. He said he does not foresee the canopies causing problems for snowplow operators.

While the structures would be on school property, they would still be owned by Never Ending Solar Trust LLC, Strungo said. If the panels were to fail, the company would be responsible for replacing them. Additionally, the company’s insurance would cover possible damage. There would be no cost to the school district for maintenance.

According to Strungo, the company hopes to begin construction and installation of the solar canopies as soon as possible, following approval by the School Committee.

“Studies will be required to determine the full cost of the project,” he said. “It will depend on the construction costs of the canopy.”

The School Committee will need to approve a memorandum of understanding for the project before the company moves forward on a final design and construction plan. A draft memorandum has been sent to the School Committee’s legal counsel for review, but a decision was not ready in time for discussion during last week’s meeting.

Strungo also presented a possible plan to install solar panels on the roof of the Bernardston Elementary School. However, as that building is owned by Bernardston, the plan must be discussed further with the Bernardston Selectboard.

Zack DeLuca can be reached at or 413-772-0261, ext. 264.

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