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Homer School Voters Asked to Consider Lease For Solar Project

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Voters in the Homer Central School District are being asked to consider leasing a 10-acre parcel in the Town of Homer for a solar panel project that is expected to reduce the energy costs for the district.

Next Tuesday voters will head to the polls to weigh in on the 25-year lease. The district is working with Florida-based energy supplier NextEra Energy Resources. If the lease is approved, the company would build, own and operate a 1.75-megawatt solar panel array on a piece of land owned by local dairy farmer Fred Forbes.

The project is expected to save the school district over $40 thousand dollars a year in electricity costs, over the life of the lease that would amount to $2 million in savings.

District Superintendent Nancy Ruscio says during sunny days the solar panels would generate more electricity than the district needs. Those excess energy credits would be applied to the schools light bill during periods of higher consumption which will create the savings.

Ruscio says there is no cost to the district for this project. NextEra will build the solar panels using state and federal tax credits that were awarded to the district. Nextera will pay to lease the land as well.

Homer is incurring some already budgeted legal fees and if the school district were to exit the lease early could have to pay a pro-rated penalty.

Opponents of the project have raised concerns that the lease term is too long. The price of energy may go down,and the price of solar panels may decline. Others have questioned if the district’s energy costs will go up as enrollment declines?

Ruscio says she sees no reason why electricity prices won’t continue to go up. This project would give the district access to clean renewable energy at no direct cost to local taxpayers. Students will be able to access the site to learn about solar power and photovoltaic cells.

The vote is from noon to 7 pm net Tuesday, August 11th.

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