Neshoba County schools may soon use solar energy for their power needs.
Neshoba County schools may soon use solar energy for their power needs.

The Neshoba County School District has been flirting with the idea of possibly implementing solar power since August of 2017 and the School Board received a crash course in the proposal Thursday during their monthly board meeting.

A presentation was made to the board by a representative from Solar South LLC out of Hattiesburg Thursday, but no action was taken on the proposal.

According to Solar South representative Ryan Ladner, the county schools could see as much as a $124,098 savings in the first year from their electricity bill by switching to solar power. Ladner said that the school spent $554,924 in electricity during the last school year. He noted that the figure is up from $380,000 for the prior school year and represents a full year with the new high school being in operational.

Ladner said that under the proposed agreement the school would pay a first year lease payment in the amount of $409,761. He estimated that the electric bill the school would have to pay would be reduced to $21,065 bringing the cost to the school at $430,826, which is $124,098 less than the district’s $554,924 for last school year’s power cost.

The proposal would include the installation of solar panels on eight acres located behind the baseball field and the district’s bus barn as well as on the rear of the high school.

The terms of the agreement would include a lease arrangement for a period of 20 years which would include maintenance, repair and replacement of any units. Ladner said after 20 years the district would have the option of extending the maintenance contract or hiring staff to perform the work.

The terms of the lease arrangement would include an increased lease cost to the district, but based upon Ladner’s projections of increasing electric rates, the district would see additional savings. Ladner said his predictions of electric rate increases were based upon current market trends.

Ladner said that his cost and savings projection figures do not include such items as possible cost savings due to energy saving programs the district may engage in and would not include the possible money being paid back to the school through selling power back to local electric companies.

Ladner said that his company is willing to guarantee that the district will not pay more than it is currently paying and if it does, Solar South will cut a check back to the district for the difference.

After the meeting, Neshoba School Superintendent Dr. Lundy Brantley said that he has been in communication with Solar South since Aug. 2017. He said that Solar South representatives made a pitch to the board at the end of 2017 and that board members had not made a decision on the matter, but were considering it as an option.

Brantley said the use of solar power by schools has been used in other states and he views it as a possibility to save the district money that could be used elsewhere.

“This could be a cost savings to the district,” he said. “We are not in a for-profit business so we have to be able to make do with the money we have. This could allow us to save money that we could channel into something else.”

Brantley said that at this point the proposal was merely an option available to the board.

“It is an idea,” he said. “We are always looking for ways to do more, looking for something to help us move forward as a district.”