WINDHAM — RSU 14 hopes to become part of a large renewable energy consortium that would save the district between $40,000 and $80,000 in its first year.

“It’s a fantastic opportunity for the district to be invited into this,” said RSU14 Superintendent Chris Howell.

Competitive Energy Services, a consultant in Portland, is organizing the consortium, which features 26 participants, including RSU 14, and will build approximately 25 solar arrays across Central Maine Power’s service territory.

“Each (participant) will own a small percent share, their relative share, of every one of those projects,” said Charlie Agnew, director of energy services at CES.

As for RSU14, Howell said, “we’re the little flea on the dog.” The district will own less than 1 percent of the project, while larger participants, such as the city of Portland or the University of Southern Maine, will own more.

As the solar facilities generate electricity, Howell said, that electricity will “be put back to the grid, and for what we contribute back to the grid, RSU 14 receives credits on our CMP bill.”

While he anticipates saving between $40,000 and $80,000 the first year, he was unsure what the long-term savings would be, saying, “we’re still in the early stages.”

With $80,000 in savings, “that’s a teacher’s salary and benefits,” Howell said.

The upfront cost for the district will be negligible, according to Howell, as the cost is built into the formula for what the district already pays for electricity. RSU 14’s payment to CES is a percentage of the credits that the project generates.

Nine developers will own, install, upgrade and maintain the arrays, although Agnew said “none of the contracts with the projects or developers have been executed yet.”

The exact locations of the arrays are not yet known, but none will be built on the RSU 14 campus.

The consortium is the result of a new law that was signed last fall, LD 1711, which reformed Maine’s Net Energy Billing policies. Under the new law, municipalities and medium-sized businesses are allowed to develop solar projects and be compensated for the electricity that is produced through credits on their electric bills, rather than providing those credits in kilowatt hours, as was done previously.

All of the consortium’s projects will quality for Net Energy Billing.

“This is a completely new program in Maine,” Agnew said. The consortium “was, in our opinion, the best approach to get our group of clients into the program as quickly and in the most cost-efficient manner as possible.”

Howell said the consortium is a “fantastic opportunity” for the district.

He hopes to have the contracts signed by the end of February, and Agnew said “each of those projects will begin construction anywhere in the next 12-24 months.”

The RSU 14 School Board was scheduled to discuss the consortium plan Feb. 26, after Lake Region Weekly’s deadline.

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