Chris Schulz Published

Wayne County To Solarize All School Buildings By 2025

The Scarborough Library on Shepherd University’s campus is home to the largest solar panel installation on a nonprofit in West Virginia. This photo shows half of its 189 panels.Liz McCormick/West Virginia Public Broadcasting

Wayne County Schools plans to solarize all of their buildings in the county by 2025. In total, up to 10,000 solar panels are expected to deliver as much as 5.33 megawatts of power each year.

The installations are part of a Power Purchasing Agreement (PPA) between the school system and West Virginia solar installer and developer Solar Holler.

Dan Conant, founder and CEO of Solar Holler, said PPAs take the upfront cost of such a large installation off of entities like Wayne County Schools. 

“Solar Holler’s paying for the panels, the power electronics, the racking, the wiring, and all the labor to install the equipment, and from there, Wayne County Schools is going to be buying the power for the next 25 years off the system at a 20 percent discount,“ Conant said. 

PPAs were legalized by the passage of House Bill 3310 by the West Virginia Legislature in 2021. Conant said the agreement will lead to savings for the school system on energy costs.

“We’re going to be cutting Wayne County Schools’ electricity budget by $150,000 in year one, and then the savings will increase every year after that as AEP continues to hike rates,” he said.

The agreement is possible in part because of funding from the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022. The bill included incentives for projects placed in coal communities like Wayne County to increase investment in energy infrastructure and funding to boost domestic manufacturing of energy technologies here in the U.S.

“The world is transitioning to renewables. It’s happening really fast,” Conant said. “I want to make sure that West Virginia doesn’t get left behind, and especially coal country.”

The solarization is the latest collaboration between Solar Holler and Wayne County Schools, which is partially based in Wayne County. Last winter, the two organizations announced an apprenticeship program for qualifying seniors aimed at preparing them for future careers in the renewable energy sector. Of the original cohort of five students, three have been hired by Solar Holler and will now help install solar panels on their former schools. 

“Our warehouse and our operations hub is in the West End of Huntington, at the tip of Wayne County,” he said. “For the last 10 years, we’ve been hiring within Wayne County. All of our crews are coming out of Wayne County every day. It’s really the community that helped build us up as a company.“

Solar Holler is in conversations with other school systems for similar agreements.

Note: Solar Holler is an underwriter of West Virginia Public Broadcasting.