Photo caption: Wayne County schools and Solar Holler will partner in a project the solar power developer called the “largest single demonstration” of the energy source in public schools in Appalachia. Solar Holler installed solar panels at Boyd County High School in Kentucky earlier this year. (Solar Holler | Courtesy photo)


A West Virginia school district will partner with Solar Holler to implement solar electric in a project the solar power developer called the “largest single demonstration” of the energy source in public schools in Appalachia.

As many as 10,000 solar panels will be installed in the Wayne County school district’s buildings under a Power Purchase Agreement. It will be the largest power purchase agreement signed to date, Solar Holler said in an announcement. 

The project is expected to be completed by the end of 2025. 

Power purchase agreements, legalized by the state Legislature in 2021, allow businesses and organizations to use solar energy without taking on the upfront capital investment of building them, the news release said.

Solar Holler will invest more than $10 million in the project in addition to engineering and construction, Dan Conant, Solar Holler founder and CEO, said Wednesday.  In exchange, the school system will enter a 25-year agreement with the organization to buy the energy the solar panels generate at a predetermined rate.

“A big incentive for the school district is that not only are they initially saving money as soon as the systems go live, but they’re also able to lock in their power prices for the next 25 years,” Conant said. “So they know exactly what they’re going to be paying for their solar for the next two and a half decades, and that really helps protect them from all of the rate hikes that AEP has been pushing through.”

Conant said Wayne County is “home turf” for the 10-year-old organization, and many of the staff have children who are students in the school district. The organization also has an apprenticeship program for qualifying Wayne County students that aims to prepare them for careers in the renewable energy sector.

The project will save the school district an estimated $150,000 in energy costs in the first year  and $6.5 million over 25 years, according to the organization. 

The organization said the Inflation Reduction Act passed in 2022 has been “instrumental” in making these sorts of projects economically viable. The law provided incentives for solar and renewable energy in coal country, Conant said. 

“I am excited to see this innovative project in Wayne County. Let’s be clear — this investment in Wayne County is a direct result of the Inflation Reduction Act,” Sen. Joe Manchin, D-West Virginia and chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, said in a news release Wednesday. “This type of investment in rural America to create jobs, make our country more energy secure and lower electric costs is exactly what the IRA was designed to do.”

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