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Trustees enthusiastic over school solar power project

AMARGOSA VALLEY — The Nye County School District (NCSD) Board of Trustees took on a fairly light agenda here on Tuesday evening.

The board’s first item of business related to a solar power project proposal for Tonopah Elementary School in northern Nye County.

Trustees unanimously approved moving forward with the project.

The company, SolarCity, provides solar energy services to homeowners, businesses, schools and nonprofits at a lower cost than they pay for energy generated by burning fossil fuels.

Late last year the company filed a petition with the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) requesting approval to exceed the capacity of a planned solar generating system at the elementary school.

SolarCity officials are requesting to exceed a system of 50 kilowatts and participate in a 98 kilowatt system at the school which they say would be more practical and cost-effective for the school district.

NCSD Director of Maintenance and Transportation Cameron McRae said the district has been looking into possibly using energy generated by the sun at a few campuses within the district.

“We were approached by a vendor from SolarCity to do this. There is a program in the state where we applied for some rebate credits based upon our use and need,” he said.

The energy consumption at the school is roughly 180,023 kWh per year, resulting in yearly energy costs of more than $18,000.

A 98-kilowatt system would result in savings of approximately $870.

Founded in 2006, SolarCity offers solar generating services to more than 82,000 customers in 14 states across the country.

NCSD Project Manager Dave Wonderly said the district is still in the early planning stages.

“There’s no contract or commitment on either side. This of course depends on PUC approval. The Board of Trustees basically gave their blessings to just look into the matter. SolarCity is huge and I think they’re the biggest in the United States,” Wonderly said.

McRae, meanwhile, said if the project is given the go-ahead, the district could reap the benefits.

“It is currently proposed as no cost to the district and is a work in progress. If we are going to be successful and everything falls into place, within one year, they would have to have it up and running in order to fit the requirements under the program statutes,” he said.

In other business, trustees also approved the reversal of a William Lyon Homes land agreement.

In 2002, a development agreement was secured with Mountain Falls to set aside 15 acres of land for a future school site to be purchased by the district at fair market price for a period of 10 years.

NCSD Chief Operating Officer Ray Ritchie said at the time the agreement was signed, district officials believed that a new elementary school would need to be constructed to keep pace with the population of students on the south end of town.

“We had 10 years from 2006 to purchase the land. It’s now less than two away and they want to know if we are going to purchase it at fair market value within the next two years. We already have two schools in that area which are Hafen and Floyd. The board said they didn’t see the need in the next two years for a new school,” he said.

In other business, the board voted to approve continuing the services of auditor Daniel McArthur.

Board members also considered approving a possible change to health insurance for district employees.

The district’s health insurance committee requested approval of a benefit change where any surgical procedure performed by a provider in the provider’s office or at an urgent care facility would not be subject to the deductible.

Three of the six members present voted to approve the change, but the other three had to abstain because they would personally benefit from the change thus the motion failed.

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