Motorists who have driven past Brick Township High School in recent months have undoubtedly noticed the large “car port” style structure that has been built over the high school’s north parking lot. But without taking a closer look, it’s easy to miss the structure’s actual purpose: to serve as a solar power array.
Brick’s public school district is undertaking solar projects at multiple schools, and entered into a power purchase agreement with Brightcore Energy, an Armonk, N.Y.-based company, that will own the array and sell energy back to the school district at a cost of about one-tenth the traditional rate. The “car port” structure is largely a bonus for students and staff, who will have shade on hot days and protection from rain and snow on stormy days.
“The car ports are finished, but they are not connected yet,” said district Business Administrator Jim Edwards. “But the target date to connect is May 14, this weekend, so we should be generating energy very shortly.”
The agreement with Brightcore covers not only the new, large array at Brick Township High School, but several other roof-mounted solar arrays at other facilities, including Herbertsville, Lanes Mill and Warren H. Wolf elementary schools, plus the district’s transportation building. Several of those arrays are also due to be activated this weekend, while construction just began on the array at Warren H. Wolf.
In many local public solar projects, an array owned directly by a government agency, such as a school district, is required to maintain its generating equipment and sell the energy on the open market using a broker of Solar Renewable Energy Credits, of SRECs. Under the district’s latest agreement, that is avoided by an agreement that ultimately provides the district with significantly cheaper energy.
“The company comes in, we pay .013 cents per kilowatt to them, and they do everything else,” said Edwards. “They collect the SRECs and do all of the administrative work.”
The agreement between the district and Brightcore holds that the company will “engineer, procure, interconnect, install, finance, operate and maintain the System, and guarantee the cost of electricity produced.”
The district has successfully implemented another Power Purchasing Agreement for previous solar arrays and the savings on energy costs has been “substantial,” Edwards said.
“We already have solar here under a former PPA we did years ago, and on that one the rate was about 4 cents per kilowatt,” said Edwards, meaning the new agreement will provide energy at an even cheaper cost.
“They’re impressive – they look great and they’ll come in handy on snowy days,” Edwards said.