Solar Energy Could Help District Power Schools

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Payson Unified School District has chosen the Phoenix-based Kennedy Partners LLC to lead its solar-powered energy project.

Ultimately, the high school and middle school campuses could receive solely solar-powered energy from roughly 63,000 square feet of solar panels.

Project management agency Kennedy Partners specializes in renewable energy projects and school districts.

Payson schools has no upfront costs for the approximately $12 million project. Instead, investors will foot the bill and Payson schools will repay their share in about 12 years in the form of utility bills.

Federal tax credits can pay for 30 percent of the project cost, and Arizona Public Service rebates offer up to 50 percent, representatives from Kennedy Partners said previously.

A relatively new state statute allows public agencies, like school districts, to capture tax credits by partnering with private business.

“The district incurs no upfront cost whatsoever,” said Superintendent Casey O’Brien. “What we’re providing,” he added, is “an attractive investment.”

At the end of those 12 years, Payson schools would own the technology, which has a lifespan of approximately 25 years.

Kennedy Partners, which earlier compiled a feasibility study for the district, beat out roughly four other competitors to earn Payson’s business. O’Brien said a team including local engineering experts reviewed the proposals.

One of Kennedy Partners’ selling points included a 12-year timeframe for repayment, as opposed to the 20 years offered by other firms. Also, Kennedy isn’t proposing to build roof-top solar panels.

Instead, panels could cover parking areas or over the maintenance yard. Last year, the district paid $500,000 for utilities, which installed solar panels could substantially reduce.

In the next few months, the district will negotiate a contract. Next, comes the design phase.

If all proceeds smoothly, the system could be operational in a year.

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