District leases elementary school roof to solar supplier

By Jackie Lupo Jan 7, 2022

To some, the flat roofs of typical late-20th-century school buildings are nothing but wasted space. To others, they represent opportunity.

That’s what the Hastings School District seized upon when its representatives met with community solar developer Greg Wasser, who will turn 70 percent of the original Hillside Elementary School building’s roof into a solar farm.

Wasser, founder and president of Manhattan-based G&S Investors, has developed local commercial districts such as the Waterfront at Port Chester; in 2009 he founded G&S Solar to build solar arrays on the roofs of his own properties to provide tenants with lower electricity costs. The venture proved so successful that he expanded his solar program to other businesses. Wasser was among Groundwork Hudson Valley’s honorees at its October 2021 gala.

On Dec. 20, the Hastings School Board approved an agreement between the district and 120 Lefurgy Solar LLC, a project-specific company formed by Wasser. The 10-year agreement allows the developer to install and operate a solar power system at the elementary school. The solar panels will cover 31,676 square feet — about .7 acres — of otherwise unused roof. The developer will also install a transformer on Hillside’s grounds to connect the rooftop solar system to the energy grid. The developer may also install battery units for electrical energy storage, which would also be connected to the energy grid.

The agreement approved by the school board has two parts, both with 10-year terms: a license agreement granting permission to the company to install and operate a solar system on the property, at a fee of $1,500 per month, and a rental agreement in which the school district will receive at least $27,000 per year, but possibly more if the solar system’s output is greater than expected.

At the Dec. 20 board meeting, district treasurer Maureen Caraballo explained that no panels would be installed on the addition now nearing completion at Hillside. “We’re not looking to put panels because of the way that roof is constructed,” she said. She added that the district had looked at installing its own panels but decided to become a partner with an established community solar operator. She added that the district would be able to access that power if necessary.

“Right now, with energy prices going up, it’s definitely going to work well, because we all know that even though we have a very good deal on electric, it’s not as good as I think solar can provide now,” Caraballo said.

The terms of the agreement call for a “ballasted racking system” that does not involve penetrating the existing roof, which was replaced in 2020. The agreement provides for the owner of the panels to move them temporarily in case the school district needs to access that part of the roof to make repairs.

In the event the agreement is terminated, or is not renewed after the initial 10-year term, the solar panels and related equipment will remain the property of the solar operator. The rental agreement also stipulates that the school district, as landlord, “shall be entitled to apply for, and to exclusively benefit from, any type of solar real estate tax abatement on the Property arising from the installation of the Solar System on the Building.”

Caraballo said no date had been set for installation of the system, because the operator was in the process of acquiring permits. The lease payments will begin on the first day of the first calendar month when the solar system begins commercial operation.


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