A proposed deal between York Electric Cooperative and Rock Hill schools to host a solar panel farm is no more.
York Electric Cooperative had proposed a land-use agreement with the Rock Hill school district to host a community solar program site at the northeast corner of the Applied Technology Center, 2399 W. Main St.
Rock Hill schools Deputy Superintendent Tony Cox said York Electric chose that site because it is close to customers who would tap into solar energy and because it ties into the energy curriculum at the Applied Technology Center.
Marc Howie, York Electric’s president of community development, said the company decided not to move forward after hearing the Rock Hill school board’s concerns.
Cox brought the issue to the board on Aug. 14, where it was met with a mix of reactions from board members.
While the panels would provide a hands-on learning opportunity for Applied Technology Center students, board members were concerned the 25-year lease was too long.
“We would be better off selling that property on the market instead of tying it up for 25 years,” board chair Jim Vining said at the time.
Board members also were concerned that not enough community input was gathered for the project to move forward.
Cox said his team sent a survey over the summer to the district’s School Improvement Council members and to community members near the proposed site.
Cox said they got back eight responses, all of which supported the project. The district also received positive responses during an Aug. 3 community meeting, including from members of Epiphany Lutheran Church across the street.
But Vining said the survey and the one meeting does not provide enough community feedback. He said a well-advertised community meeting should be scheduled before a decision is made.
“I’m not opposed to the panels, but I am opposed to rushing into a 25-year lease (without community input),” Vining said.
Those concerns led York Electric to factor in further delays to the project and decide to look for other sites, Howie said.
“We hated not to pursue that,” he said. “It sounded like a great student program. (But) we need to move on, because we have members on the waiting list to sign up for this program, so further delays means we won’t be serving the members that want it.”
Cox said he understands York Electric’s need. He said the concerns brought up during the board meeting played a part in the decision.
“It was based on what happened at that work session,” Cox said. “They have a need to get this thing up and running.”
The end of the land-use deal also removes a negotiation between the school district and York Electric for future installation of solar panels at Oakdale Elementary School, Cox said.
He said the Oakdale deal would have saved the district on energy costs in the long-term.
The decision not to move forward was a business one on York Electric’s part, Cox said.
“It would have been nice,” Cox said. “I think the concept is a very good one.”
Amanda Harris: 803-329-4082