Hawkins County BOE brokers $10,000 deal to move Surgoinsville school solar panels

Jeff Bobo • May 23, 2013 at 11:44 PM

ROGERSVILLE — A wall of solar panels recently installed in front of Surgoinsville Middle School could be moved to the rear of the school within two weeks assuming a deal brokered Thursday evening is approved by the Board of Education June 4.

During a workshop session Thursday evening, the BOE held a conference call with some of the investors who help pay for the $7 million project that put electricity producing solar panels at 20 Hawkins County School facilities.

The deal that was informally approved Thursday calls for the BOE to pay $10,000 of the $25,000 cost of moving the panels to the rear of the school.

Brian Bednar, who is president of the Charlotte, N.C.-based Birdseye Renewable Energy, told the BOE during that conference call that the cost of moving the Surgoinsville Middle solar panels from the front of the school to the rear of the school had been figured at $25,000, higher than the $20,000 estimate Bednar offered during a public meeting held at the school on May 15.

Bednar met with Surgoinsville residents and local officials on May 15 to hear their concerns about the wall of solar energy generating panels placed in front of the school standing about seven feet high and the length of a football field.

Locals described the panels to Bednar as an eyesore and a school security hindrance. Although Bednar suggested less expensive options such as placing the panels three rows deep to reduce the amount of blocked school frontage, locals said their only option was removal from the front of the school.

BOE chairman Randy Collier, who represents the Surgoinsville schools, echoed that sentiment during Thursday’s workshop.

Solar panels have been installed at 20 school facilities.

Some were placed on the roof and some on the ground. At Surgoinsville Elementary School, the panels were installed behind the school.

So far the Surgoinsville Middle panels are the only ones to receive a negative response from their community.

Electricity generated by the panels will be sold to the Tennessee Valley Authority.

Hawkins County Schools’ projected revenue from the 20 solar sites will be $875,000 over a 20-year period, or $43,750 annually in revenue for the school system.

On Thursday, Bednar recommended to the BOE that it pay $12,000 of the cost of relocating the solar panels to the rear of Surgoinsville Middle.

Bednar said he wanted to offer the school a proposal that wouldn’t require any money out-of-pocket.

He suggested that the $12,000 be drawn from the school system’s solar panel revenue over a three-year period, starting at $5,000 the first year, $4,000 for the second year, and $3,000 for the third year.

Board member Mike Williams suggested that the school system, just pay its share up front to make the process simpler.

Williams then suggested the county school system’s share should be $10,000, and Bednar agreed.

The BOE wasn’t able to officially vote for the agreement at Thursday’s workshop, so the matter will be added the June 4 BOE meeting agenda.

The panels and many of the parts will be recycled in the move.

But they will have to order new posts, which Bednar said should take about two weeks.

Assuming the agreement is approved June 4, the move can begin shortly thereafter and should only take a couple of days to complete.

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