The school portion of a proposed 2.6-megawatt project to serve both town and school buildings was approved Tuesday, giving the company behind it security that voters will approve the other portion to serve Newport’s municipal buildings on May 8.
“This was a strong education of that support,” said Norwich Solar Technologies representative Don McCormick.
The project would sprawl across 10 acres, spanning four properties, and serve the school district office, three school buildings and all town-owned facilities.
It would produce 2.5 million kilowatt hours of energy — the equivalent of taking 9,360 cars off the road. About $200,000 of energy would be provided each year, which is nearly enough to zero out energy needs for the town and school.
Investors would fund the total $3.5 million cost and sell renewable power back to the town and school at about eight cents per kilowatt hour. It is estimated savings would total about $4,000 the first year.
“It’s not a significant savings initially,” said McCormick. “What it does do is stabilize their energy rates so as energy prices rise in the future, the savings will be more and more overtime.”
The project initiated more than a year ago, headed by Newport Town Manager Hunter Rieseberg’s initiatives to make the town more energy efficient.
Four properties were scouted as locations for the solar panels.
The landfill on Breakneck Road, a floodplain across from the wastewater treatment plant and the land encompassing the Pollards Mill pump station would be used.
The other solar panels, initially targeted for the roof of Richard’s Elementary School, were relocated for practicality reasons. Private land would be used instead.
McCormick said the system could last as long as 40 years. If approved in the May 8 vote, construction would begin around July and be completed in the fall.