After months of discussion following the initial proposal, School District #7 Board of Directors approved construction of a 200 kW solar array by Obsidian Renewables near the district office on Tuesday, Dec. 17.
The project was given a pass the week before by the Town of Lakeview Planning Commission with only one vote against it. This time, the vote was much closer, with three members of the school board voting for the project and two against it.
After extensive discussion of the project in their work session prior to the regular meeting, the board raised several questions that they put to Obsidian’s Vice Pres. Todd Gregory via telephone.
Gregory was first asked about a timeline for a grant that will provide much of the funding for the project. The grant, which is awarded by the Oregon Department of Energy, requires the application be submitted by Jan. 3.
“The grant is awarded within about 30 days,” said Gregory. “I should know if we get it after a month.”
The board’s next concern was how maintenance of the facility would be worked into an agreement between Obsidian and the school district. According to Gregory, Obsidian would be responsible for any maintenance while they own it during the first 5-6 years of operation.
He mentioned an agreement with Swinerton Builders, contractors who would maintain the array, and the possibility of the board continuing to work with them. Also a possibility was training staff employed by the school to work on the array.
Should Obsidian go bankrupt, which was a concern of the board, Gregory thought it likely that creditors would take over operation of the project with the original agreement still in place.
After a question about Obsidian’s investment in the project, he estimated that around 30 percent of the construction cost would by financed by the company’s own equity.
“I see this as a net positive thing for the schools. We won’t get money unless we find a way to make it,” said Darryl Anderson after the board started to discuss what their decision should be.