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Northern Middle School roof not strong enough for solar panels and snow

Smaller array would not be cost-effective option

March 01, 2011|By JULIE E. GREENE | julieg@herald-mail.com
  • Northern Middle School
File photo

The sun has set on a project to install solar panels atop Northern Middle School.

A structural engineer with Nautilus Solar determined the school's roof wouldn't be strong enough to hold the solar-panel array and a significant amount of snow, such as 18 inches or more, Washington County Public Schools' director of maintenance and operations Mark Mills said Tuesday.

The school board voted 7-0 Tuesday to notify the Maryland Energy Administration and Nautilus that the school system is unable to proceed with the project.

School system employees considered a smaller solar array, but decided it wasn't a cost-effective option, Purchasing Supervisor Lisa Freeman told the board during Tuesday's afternoon business meeting.

The array was expected to generate about 30 percent of the school's electrical needs.

Northern Middle, along Northern Avenue in Hagerstown's North End, was chosen for the array because of the roof's size and age, and lack of interfering shade, Mills said last year. The school's roof was about five years old, Mills said at the time.

The school board voted in August to approve a proposal from Nautilus Solar to install the system for about $1.5 million. The company would have recouped its investment through various ways, including a $340,000 Maryland Energy Administration grant, Mills has said.

Mills said Tuesday that during an earlier cursory review of the roof, it looked OK for the project.

Freeman said the only cost to the school system for the project has been staff time.

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