News Feature

Originally published in Castine Patriot, September 13, 2018
Penobscot School Board tackles idea of solar energy

by Monique Labbe

The concept of moving the school to solar power was a key topic of conversation at the Penobscot School Board meeting on September 10.

The board has heard presentations from two companies, Sundog Solar of Searsport and ReVision Energy from Liberty, during the previous two meetings. Both companies discussed what it would take to get the school hooked up to solar powered energy. ReVision Energy even said they would pay for the project up front, and the town could pay it back through a loan.

Board chairman Jerry Markley expressed his concerns about “jumping into” going solar powered immediately, saying that it would be most beneficial to take their time and have several conversations with town selectmen before taking on a project that would cost in the area of $127,000.

Board member Charles Brenton, who was not in attendance at the meeting, provided an email to his fellow board members and Union 93 Superintendent Mark Hurvitt.

In the email, Brenton said that the power purchase agreements, which was what was presented by ReVision Energy, were “a bunch of hocus pocus,” and that if moving to solar power can work, the town should be able to purchase the system outright without a backer.

Brenton suggested the town consider purchasing a solar system for the school in three to five years, and that a reserve account be designated for this purpose at the next town meeting.

Dick Hutchinson and Carroll Connard were at the school board meeting representing The Penobscot People’s Forum, which has been working to study solar power for the school. They presented a “strawman list of actions” to install the solar panels at Penobscot Community School, which included getting an estimate for replacing the shingles on the roof, gleaning further information about the process, working with town officials to come up with a plan to present to the town at the next town meeting, and, finally, come up with a decision.

The three board members in attendance, Markley, Fred Briehl and Anne Hayes-Grillo, agreed that solar power would be beneficial, but that all options should be explored.

“We could also put up the panels at the transfer station, away from the school and in a bigger space to generate more energy,” said Markley. “We need to consider that as well.”

The Penobscot People’s Forum will continue to look into the subject, and future planning will continue leading up to the town meeting in March.