Aztec school board to vote on solar project

Joshua Kellogg
Aztec Municipal School District Superintendent Kirk Carpenter talks last month about the district's planned solar energy project outside the district's administration office in Aztec.

FARMINGTON – The Aztec Municipal School District Board of Education will vote Thursday on pursuing a project to install solar panels on district property to save money on operation expenses.

Board members will vote on a resolution to authorize Superintendent Kirk Carpenter to negotiate and approve a contract with PPC Solar to install five sets of solar energy equipment on district roofs.

Gary Martinez, district finance director, said the project calls for 450 photovoltaic modules in five subarrays on the roofs of the transportation department building and the covered parking structures for buses.

Martinez said the project is estimated to cost about $350,000 and will be finalized once contract negotiations are finished with Taos-based PPC Solar. The company submitted the only bid for the project last month.

Board President Wayne Ritter and member T. Ryan Lane both said they support the project as a way to put money back in the classroom.

“I think it’s a great idea. When you look at all the roof space the district has, it makes sense to utilize that space,” Lane said.

The Aztec Municipal School District bus parking lot is pictured Wednesday. District officials hope to install a solar array at the Aztec Municipal School District Administration office in Aztec.

Ritter said the district needs to be smart with its money, and the project could save money in the future.

The nearly 8,000 square feet of panels could generate about $34,000 in electricity savings for the first year, according to a proposal submitted by PPC Solar to the district. A total of about $1.37 million in electricity costs could be saved across 25 years for a yearly average of about $55,900 in savings.

The entire system could pay for itself in 10 years, and the money saved could be spent on salaries for teachers and supplies in the classroom, according to the proposal.

“Every dollar we put into paying for electricity is a dollar we can’t pay into direct instruction,” Martinez said.

The solar energy system would fulfill the electricity requirements for the district’s administration building, which is estimated to cost the district about $53,000, according to PPC Solar.

Martinez said the district hopes to have the project finished by early summer of next year.

A resolution approved by the board members last month set aside 2 mill funds to pay for a replacement solar energy system in the future. An initial deposit of $100,000 was made into the account this year and $25,000 will be deposited annually until it reaches $500,000.

A rendering shows what solar panels would look like on the Aztec Municipal School District transportation building.

Joshua Kellogg covers education for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4627.