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Lake Shore to allow installation of solar panels

In a move aimed at reducing energy costs, the Lake Shore Central School Board reached a 20-year agreement Tuesday with Solar Liberty to allow the installation of solar panels on more than 11 acres owned by the school district on Erie Road.

“Solar rays are basically like a power plant,” said Rob Gauchat, vice present of sales and operations for Solar Liberty.

According to Gauchat, there will be “no upfront capital” paid by the district, just the agreement that the district will allow use of the vacant property by Solar Liberty through 2035.

Gauchat estimates the property, at 7540 Erie Road near Jerusalem Corners, will generate 2.9 million killowatts of power per year.

“We’re providing the land,” Superintendent James Przepasniak said, noting there was no planned use for the property. He also stressed that the project is “clean energy” and the panels will be installed with limited environmental impact.

According to Assistant Superintendent for Administration and Finance Daniel W. Pacos, the panels are expected to have a shelf life of 30 years – which is well beyond the agreement. In all, 7,920 panels will be placed, and according to Pacos, he believes the amount of land in this agreement will be larger than any other places where Solar Liberty has similar agreements, including the University at Buffalo and the Town of Evans. A wooded buffer is being discussed in order to put the array in the center and not to be an eyesore to those who live nearby.

Przepasniak pointed out that none of the solar panels will be placed on any school buildings. Pacos added that part of the reason for that is the various ages of the roofs on the buildings. Because of the ages of some, the panels would not be effective.

Something the superintendent is excited about is that it is expected to instantly reduce the schools’ energy costs by $75,000 in the first year. Over time, the savings might be close to $200,000.

He said this project has received a lot of support from residents in the district.

“The community is supportive of solar energy,” Przepasniak said.

Pacos said the board’s approval of the deal is just the first step in the process to get the panels into the ground. In the coming weeks, the property will have to be cleared and a roadway built onto the land. The district will also work out details with the School and Municipal Energy Cooperative of Western New York.

Przepasniak is hopeful that the panels will be installed and operating by late fall.

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