Solar arrays are blooming like flowers across New York.
And it’s about time. We can feel the power of the sun every time we walk outside on a sunny day, but for too long solar power has struggled to take hold in our communities.
This delay is due, in good part, to sticker shock. Solar panels are not cheap to install, and their value to our pocketbooks is not felt for years. Yes, in the long term, they can save individuals, companies, and communities money. But most of our financial decisions are made with an eye not to our long term savings, but to our short term expenses. And this is too bad because the savings can be significant.
Take a major solar power project about to get underway in upstate New York’s South Central Colonie School District. The district has decided to move forward with a $5.5 million project that will install 5,700 solar panels on all of their schools and administrative buildings.
Over the next 20 years, the solar arrays are projected to save the district $1.7 million. But what made the project possible was a combination of state subsidies ($1.8 million from the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority) and a private company (Monolith Solar) who was willing to pay for, install, and maintain the equipment.
Even though the district would likely have saved even more money if they had installed the equipment themselves, there’s no way they could have passed a multi-million dollar bond for the initial construction. By taking away the upfront costs, solar companies are making solar energy possible in places where it would never happen.
I tend to be leery of public/private partnerships for core community needs like water and police, but I’m all for partnerships that deliver valuable services that otherwise wouldn’t be possible. Now, let’s hope we can see solar arrays bloom atop more schools across the state.