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Business & Technology

Solar panels to be installed at 11 Hawkins schools

February 2nd, 2012 10:47 pm by Jeff Bobo

ROGERSVILLE — The installation of energy efficient lighting at all Hawkins County schools, which was completed last month, is already beginning to show significant energy savings including more than $65,000 at three schools alone between May and December of last year.

But two more projects discussed by the Hawkins County Board of Education Thursday evening will drive down the system’s energy costs even further.

Those projects include the installation of solar panels at 11 Hawkins County schools by Morristown-based TerraShares, which will sell electricity back to the Tennessee Valley Authority.

Installation will be at no cost to the county, and the school system will receive a projected $70,000 per year in revenue from the electricity generated during the 10-year life of the contract.

TerraShares President John Adkins told the BOE Thursday that Hannah Solar LLC of Atlanta has been hired as general contractor, and installation at the 11 schools determined to have the best sun exposure in the county will begin Feb. 6.

Those 11 schools are Bulls Gap, Church Hill Elementary, Church Hill Intermediate, Hawkins Elementary, Joseph Rogers Primary, Keplar, McPheeters Bend, Mooresburg, Rogersville Middle, St. Clair and Surgoinsville Elementary.

When the solar panels installation is completed sometime in March, Hawkins County Schools will be the first school system in Tennessee to undertake a solar panel electricity generation program, although it will be followed shortly by Williamson County and Johnson City municipal buildings including Johnson City schools.

On Thursday, the BOE also approved the installation of energy efficient HVAC systems at seven schools to be paid with federal Qualified School Construction Bond (QSCB) zero percent interest loan funds.

Hawkins County Schools has $2.152 million in QSCB funds earmarked for those construction costs.

Bids were advertised for HVAC and electrical upgrade projects at Keplar School, McPheeters Bend Elementary, Mooresburg Elementary, St. Clair Elementary, Church Hill Elementary, Carters Valley Elementary and Surgoinsville Elementary.

School Maintenance Director Bill Shedden told the BOE Thursday the school system received two bid options, one of which was a generic base bid leaving $134,816 in the QSCB fund.

An alternative bid includes additional units in the kitchens at Keplar, McPheeters Bend and St. Clair, where there are currently only window units. Adding additional units at those three schools, however, would leave only $23,216 in the QSCB fund.

Architect Don Solt told the BOE he would be more comfortable if there was a contingency fund of at least $10,000 available for each project, or about $70,000 total.

“Things do run over, and let’s say we run $50,000 over (the bid),” Shedden told the board. “That money would have to come out of undesignated fund balance because of the way the QSCB money is, and if you start these projects, you have to finish them. The state doesn’t care if you run out of money. You’ve got to finish the project as it was applied for.”

The BOE voted unanimously to approve the base bids with the option of accepting the alternative bids for Keplar, McPheeters Bend and St. Clair within 90 days.

Upon being installed, the new HVAC systems are expected to give their respective schools substantial energy savings.

Just last month, Hawkins County Schools completed a systemwide installation of efficiency lighting.

Initially, Hawkins County Schools installed efficiency lighting at Rogersville Middle, Cherokee High School and Volunteer High School, and those projects were completed in April 2011.

Between the months of May and December 2011, Hawkins County saved a total of $65,308 on its electric bills from those three schools compared to the previous year’s bill.

Shedden said February will be the first month he will be able to compare electric bills from previous years, systemwide, with new electric bills since the efficiency lighting was installed.

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