IWCS solar project nearly complete

Published 3:47 pm Tuesday, December 14, 2021

Last January, Isle of Wight County Schools began the months-long process of adding solar panels to its schools. Now, the work is nearly complete.

Isle of Wight’s School Board had approved a contract with Sigora Solar in 2020 to place panels on seven of its nine schools, excluding Hardy and Westside elementary schools since both of those buildings are slated to be replaced. The installation of the panels began last January.

Six of the seven schools are now “live,” according to IWCS spokeswoman Lynn Briggs, meaning those schools are now drawing power from the panels. The installation of panels on Smithfield Middle School is still ongoing.

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Once the panels on all seven schools are up and running, they will allow IWCS to offset roughly 44% of those schools’ total electricity needs with a combined 3.3-megawatt solar system, according to Standard Solar Inc., the project’s funding agent.

IWCS and Sigora have signed a power purchase agreement, allowing for the panels to be installed at no cost to the county in exchange for a commitment by IWCS to purchase the electricity generated and use it to power each of the solar-equipped schools. According to Standard Solar, the combined rooftop arrays are projected to produce an estimated 4,252 megawatt-hours of renewable energy each year, offsetting the equivalent carbon emissions of an average car driving 7.6 million miles.

According to school officials, IWCS expects to save more than $3 million over the life of the 20-year agreement, since electricity from solar sources is often cheaper than electricity produced by Dominion Energy.

“Incorporating solar energy is cost-effective and helps the environment while reducing energy expenses and funneling savings to resources that directly impact student success,” Superintendent Dr. Jim Thornton stated in a Standard Solar press release.

“This project is a shining example of the potential of the Virginia Clean Economy Act at work, making solar accessible and affordable for schools throughout Dominion Energy’s territory,” added John Finnerty, Standard Solar’s director of business development.

The Virginia Clean Economy Act, passed in 2020, requires Dominion Energy to produce its electricity from 100% renewable sources by 2045.