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Solar Skeptic Turned Solar Champion

This story is an excerpt from Generation180’s 2019 report on the state of solar in Virginia’s K-12 schools. Learn more about the report here.

Middlesex country is a conservative, rural community in coastal Virginia in which 41% of the students are economically disadvantaged. No other school district in the region had installed solar panels before Middlesex County Public Schools (MCPS) did.

Greg Harrow, Director of Operations & Transportation, has worked at Middlesex County Public Schools for 21 years. He admits he’s not big on change and is cautious of taking on projects that will make more work for his small facilities team. Prior to this project, he was very skeptical of solar and thought it would be too expensive.

Greg was influenced by John Koontz, member of the county’s Board of Supervisors and solar industry veteran, and their tour of the solar installations at Albemarle County Public Schools. He changed his mind after he realized the huge cost savings that his district would see.

Greg recognizes that the district wouldn’t have been able to go solar without a power purchase agreement (PPA), but at first his team was concerned that the arrangement sounded too good to be true. Under the PPA, the solar developer purchases, owns, and maintains the solar panels with no upfront investment from the district. The district agrees to buy the energy produced by the panels at a discounted rate for 25 years, which will result in a cumulative savings of $4.74 million.

With 1.93 megawatts of solar photovoltaic panels installed onsite across its three schools, Middlesex County became the first school district in Virginia to meet 100% of its schools’ electricity needs from solar energy. Since the ground-mounted solar arrays were installed, the former solar skeptic has given dozens of tours to other school districts and brags about the energy savings and educational opportunities that the solar installation provides.

Want more where this came from? Check out our 2019 report “Powering a Brighter Future in VA” here.