Despite being unsure of which way it will end up going, the Lonedell R-XIV School District Board of Education wants to make sure it doesn’t miss out on a potential opportunity to save money by converting to solar energy.

During its October meeting, board members voted to “move forward” with reviewing a proposal from Microgrid Solar that could power the school on Highway FF south of Highway 30 for the foreseeable future.

“The board voted to move forward with checking into this, but didn’t vote to accept any kind of proposal,” Superintendent Jen Ulrich told The Missourian after R-XIV’s October meeting. “The board voted to take the next step and see if this is something that would be beneficial for Lonedell.”  

A special board meeting has been scheduled for 6 p.m. on Monday, Nov. 4, in the board meeting room at the school, 7466 Highway FF. The only item on the agenda is the solar proposal.

Microgrid representative Troy Libbra presented the exact same proposal to Lonedell as he recently has with the St. Clair R-XIII School District and St. Clair City Hall. It calls for a six-year lease term with five years of $2,000 annual payments. During the sixth year, the ownership of a 25-kilowatt array would be transferred to the school, as would all maintenance and cost responsibilities.

Over that time frame, cumulative savings are estimated to be more than $13,000. After 25 years, the expected life of the solar array, savings could top out at about $142,000.

The projections take into account a 5 percent annual utility escalator.

Microgrid guarantees a 95 percent efficiency rate for the length of the lease agreement and expects about an 80 percent efficiency rate of return for 20 years, Libbra said.

Ulrich said she had been in contact with Libbra only a few days before the scheduled October board meeting, so “this is still all new to us.”

“We need a chance to learn the pros and cons of the system,” she told The Missourian. “That’s why we voted to move ahead, but not commit to anything at this time.

“We’re very interested, but we just need to get more information and wait for some things to fall into place. ... We’re moving forward cautiously.”

The city of St. Clair took the same approach.

“We do want to make sure we don’t miss out on this if it will work for us,” Ulrich said.

If it opts to go that route, the school district’s lease agreement would take advantage of Ameren Missouri tax credits, which are now $2 per kilowatt, Libbra said. He also informed board members that Ameren is trying to “tick down” the kilowatt rebate rate, maybe to $1.50 per unit.

If that occurs, Libbra said, Microgrid would have to renegotiate the terms of its lease agreements with the school district and other entities.

A ruling by the Missouri Public Service Commission will determine what future Ameren tax credits will be. Libbra said the utility company believes it has satisfied its rebate quota this year, and is requesting the amount be lowered.

The application deadline to take advantage of the tax credits is the end of the year.