DERRY — Supporters of the sun's power hope to bring solar projects to the School District to help supply annual energy savings and tax relief to residents. 

Members of Derry's Net Zero Task Force appeared before the School Board recently to tout the town's municipal energy savings and said potential solar projects could also provide savings for schools. 

The task force began five years ago, with its volunteer members meeting regularly to talk about solar power, projects, and how to bring energy-saving initiatives to the community.

The group continues its quest to study solar efforts and reached out to the district to gauge opinion on studying potential energy savings in school buildings.

Net Zero's projects include a small solar panel installation at the town's transfer station off Fordway, with a 100-kilowatt solar array and 10 ground-mounted tracking devices each holding 24 panels.  

Another project that would have used 10 acres of old landfill space for a large solar installation was also considered.

But state regulations do not allow large-megawatt solar fields, and if that changes, it could mean better payback and solar perks for larger projects the community may want to consider.

"That would allow production for more than what we want to do for the town," said Net Zero Chairman Jeff Moulton.

Moulton was joined by task force member Joshua Bourdon, also a Derry town councilor, who told School Board members it would be a great collaboration between the town and district to enjoy the perks that solar energy savings could bring.

That could be millions of dollars saved over the lifetime of a project.

Potential solar projects at schools could include rooftop or small ground panel installations.

School District Business Administrator Jane Simard said the district is working on facility studies and each school building and all other areas in the district would receive a thorough examination when it comes to structural integrity, energy, electrical and their physical aspects.

That could be important when deciding how to proceed with a solar project, especially on a building's roof — making sure it is structurally sound to support panel installation.

"We want to know where our roofs are at, what is structurally sound," before we go ahead with solar, said board Chairman Erika Cohen.

The district is also seeing energy cost savings through its Honeywell project initiated several years ago.

Showing off what the town side is doing to save money could be emulated on the school side as well, Bourdon said

"And we'll never support anything that doesn't work to support savings," he added.

Technology is constantly changing, task force officials said, but it's still a good plan if there are savings.

"You all have to decide what you are comfortable with," Moulton told board members.

Board member Brenda Willis was all in on the solar talk.

"Either we want to do it or we don't," she said. "I'm all for it.

Bourdon said it's good to start the conversation with the district and he hopes changes in state regulations would allow consideration of higher-megawatt projects.

"And if it can help everyone, that's what it's all about," he said.

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