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Pottsville Says School Solar Panels Saved $150K+ in Year 2

Rising energy costs lead to big savings, business manager says.

The Business Manager at Pottsville Area schools said Wednesday night that the solar panels on 3 campus buildings saved the district more than $150,000 in their second year of operation.

Stacy Stair, the Business Manager for Pottsville Area, delivered her annual update on the project that started with a lot of controversy.

Her report to school board members and the public at the board’s October meeting showed Pottsville Area saving $153,333 because of the solar power the panels generated between November 1, 2021 and October 31, 2022. The school is classifying this as Year 2 of their operation.

In Year 1, the school reported saving just $10,382.

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The savings Stair is referencing is a comparison to what she says the school would have paid PPL Electric without solar panels and what it actually paid and received with them installed.

Pottsville Schools Report Solar Panel Savings

Here’s a breakdown of the report Stair delivered on Wednesday:

Expenses Comparison

In Year 2 of operation, Stair says Pottsville Area paid $197,895 in bills to PPL. It also paid another $188,714 as part of the district’s contract with GreenWorks Development, which first approached the district in 2019.

Pottsville must pay GreenWorks for the first 5 years of the panels’ operation before purchasing them outright. The school took out a $4 million bond to afford paying for the solar panels when that time comes.

By comparison, Stair says, Pottsville Area would have paid $402,074 for its electric supply during Year 2 plus another $68,804 for what she figured as the Historical Distribution Cost.

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Revenue from Solar Panels

During Year 2, Stair says the solar panels on three buildings: John S. Clarke Elementary School, DHH Lengel Middle School, and the Howard S. Fernsler Academic Center, offset approximately 40% of the district’s electricity use in that time. That’s down from the 44% offset during Year 1.

However, by calculating Stair’s numbers, Pottsville Area used nearly 11% more electricity in Year 2 vs. Year 1.

Cutting into the expenses incurred from electricity cost and the solar panel contract are revenues generated by the panels.

Stair says Pottsville Area made $66,896 from selling Solar Renewable Energy Credits (SRECs) in Year 2. And it also received a $2,168 payment from PPL Electric for excess production from the solar panels.

So, by her calculations, Stair says the school spent a net $317,545 on electricity in Year 2 with the solar panels, compared to the $470,878 the district would have spent without them.

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Why the Big Jump in Savings?

The difference in reported savings from Year 1 to Year 2 certainly stands out to anyone seeing the report Stair presented on Wednesday.

The $150K+ savings is way more than the school even estimated for Year 2, which was a little more than $16,000.

Stair said the primary reason for the massive jump in savings is caused by the rising cost of electricity. She said the cost of electricity is currently 92% higher than it was when the panels were first installed.

Here is a simple chart showing a comparison of the figures Stair used in her presentation for Year 2 vs. what she reported after Year 1 of the Pottsville Area solar project:

Year 1Year 2
Bills from PPL(179,445.00)(197,895.00)
Solar Contract Payment(171,417.00)(188,714.00)
SREC Sales55,170.0066,896.00
Excess Production Payment2,825.002,168.00
Electricity Consumed (kWh)3,880,9314,300,255
Solar Energy Offset44%40%
Electricity Cost (kWh)0.06210.0935
Savings (per school report)10,382.00153,333.00
w/o Solar Usage (kWh)3,880,9314,300,255
w/o Solar Supply Cost (kWh)0.06210.0935
w/o Solar Distribution Cost (kWh)0.0160.016
Nov. 1, 2020-Oct. 31, 2021Nov. 1, 2021-Oct. 31, 2022

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Photo (above) caption: Pottsville Area School District Business Manager Stacy Stair tells school board members on Oct. 18, 2023, solar panels saved the district more than $150,000 in their second year of operation.

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