Officials considering solar car port canopy for Burrillville Middle School

Solar panels installed by Trane for the Dighton/Rehoboth School District.

BURRILLVILLE – Town officials are considering a $1 million solar project for Burrillville Middle School that would generate some 90 percent of the power required to run the facility.

Trane, a global company that manufactures HVAC equipment and controls, presented the idea to the School Committee at their meeting Tuesday, Aug. 14, with Regional Director Leo McNeil noting that his business has been around for 120 years.

“On average, one of Trane’s air conditioning units is installed every minute, of every day, just to give you an idea of the size and scope of our company,” said McNeil.

Trane Regional Director Leo McNeil makes a presentation to the Burrillville School Committee.

McNeil said the school Facilities Director Bill Robinson asked Trane officials to visit Burrillville after noticing a recent project the company completed for the Dighton/Rehoboth Regional School District in Massachusetts. Trane installed several solar car port canopies for that district, with a multi-school system that generates 1.2 megawatts of combined power.

“These panels are making power that’s being used directly in the schools,” said McNeil.

Robinson has been in talks with Trane since March about potential projects to reduce the cost of operations and create power on site to be used in schools in Burrillville.

McNeil presented an option that would see a car port built over around half of the parking lot at Burrillville Middle School with the capacity to generate 294 kilowatts of electricity. The system, he said, could generate roughly 90 percent of the power that is used at the school, and would result in a $300,000 positive cash flow over 20 years.

The 30 year cash flow benefit, he said, would top $1.4 million.

The blue square shows the proposed location for a solar canopy at Burrillville Middle School.

The system would cost around $1 million to design and install, McNeil said, noting that many Trane customers pay for their projects through “performance contracting,” which utilizes financing covered through guaranteed future energy savings.

“That’s eliminating the need to dip into a capital budget,” said McNeil. “There’s a variety of ways to do it. Funding typically occurs by independent third party banks.”

An agreement signed with Trane would include everything from planing, and help with grants and financing arrangements, to installation and future maintenance and service.

“It’s clearly an opportunity available to your district to make power on site, use it in your schools and generate positive cash flow,” said McNeil.

McNeil noted that reduction of the school’s environmental footprint would also be a benefit, and that his company often creates displays inside the schools themselves for students to use as a learning tool.

A solar canopy installed by Trane covers a parking lot in Dighton.

The system has a 30-year life expectancy and School Committee member Donison Allen asked about the company’s policy for removal of the solar panels. Trane officials said that the panels will still generate some power after 30 years, and that Trane does not have a specific plan for removal.

“If we wanted to get rid of it that’s on us,” Allen said.

McNeil presented a sample timeline for the project, noting that a memorandum of understanding between the district and his company could be signed as early as September.

“You could be making power by April of 2019, he said, noting that panels were installed during the school at year at Dighton/Rehoboth. “We make sure to stay out of your way. Whatever it is we do, we do it without interrupting your operations.”

McNeil said that the system would likely be covered under the school’s general insurance policy. He noted that Trane has installed such systems as thousands of schools throughout North America.

Committee Chairman Mark Brizard noted that because the project would involve town buildings, it would need to be discussed with the Town Council.

Committee members voted unanimously to request a work shop between the Town Council and Trane with help from facilities director Robinson.

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