A School District Gets Creative and Saves Millions with Solar

It was early 2015 and Jeff Kisloski, the Superintendent of Candor Central School District, had a development problem on his hands. His aging bus garage was in desperate need of repair. He and his team had been pouring over different development plans, and Jeff came to a disappointing realization; this project was going to be way too expensive for taxpayers.

Jump forward to 2018, Candor school district has a brand new bus garage and a 1-megawatt solar array powering every outlet and light bulb in its district. His district is on track to save more than $3.5 million in construction costs, and $125,000 a year in energy expenses.

How did a small-town superintendent flip an over-burdened development project, and turn it into two new facilities that will save his district millions of dollars? The answer lies in creative thinking and smart relationships.


​Jeff Kisloski , Superintendent, Candor Central School District 

​Mr. Kisloski is not your typical superintendent. After more than 20 years working at various levels within the local school system, Jeff has developed an acute sense of responsibility to his students and the taxpayers. He views every project, every investment and every decision through the long-term lens of, "how will this impact my students, staff AND the taxpayers in my district."

As Jeff and his team evaluated options for Candor's new garage, his financial awareness drove him to push for a more novel solution. The original plan called for the district to raze its old garage and build a new facility on the same plot of land. The state had approved this direction, and with funding secured, it seemed an all but inevitable that the project would move forward.

While many would have taken the path of least resistance, Jeff sensed that there was another opportunity just over the horizon. After running the numbers, his team had discovered that the construction project would cost the district more than $7 Million, and redeveloping an existing facility that had just become available in the community would immediately save them $3.5 million in construction costs. The redevelopment plan also came with a hidden benefit: 17 acres of land directly behind the potential location of the new garage.

It was at this point that the project transformed from a short-term win, to a long-term coup for the district.

Candor Central schools had recently begun a partnership with the BOCES energy management services program. This connection had facilitated the creation of a relationship between Jeff's team and Alwyn John. Alwyn is responsible for assisting and consulting on Energy Performace Contracts in the seven districts he manages. Through these experiences, he had promoted energy audits, and wholesale revamps of district's energy consumption systems. After consulting with Jeff and his team, Alwyn proposed that the district use this construction project to unearth to a more ambitious goal: becoming a solar-powered school district. The door was opened to Candor becoming one of the most entrepreneurial educational outfits in the state.

The next step was to bring these proposals to the school board and state for review. Jeff had long held the belief that the combining of these projects was a ubiquitous win for the district. As any superintendent knows, surefire wins don't always equate to unanimous approvals. 

​As this process progressed, Jeff and his colleagues used their financial sensibility to inform public opinion. " When we dove into the numbers, we found that it was financially irresponsible NOT to invest in this project," Jeff remarks. " With State Aid, we were able to offset 90% of the costs of the solar system, and the $125,000 we save a year on energy equals what would be a 2.5% levy on the tax burden”.


As Jeff and his team ran the numbers, they were able to promise his school board savings of $3.5 Million on the bus garage project, and more than $3 million in energy costs over the 25-year life-span of the solar array. These projections would prove to be too much for even the most resistant community members to brush off.

The project was approved by both the state and local legislative bodies and cleared for construction. Both Candor and BOCES issued an RFP in early 2017. When all the bids returned, Renovus Solar was chosen to execute the solar portion of this transformative project.

​A 3d Model used by the Renovus Team to calculate shading, energy production, and more.

The Renovus team started designing the system in August and had begun construction by October. When asked about why Candor chose Renovus for the project, Jeff remarked: "the biggest thing was their commitment to our community, they're local... they've been here". As the project progressed "there wasn't a deadline they missed or a request from the district they didn't respond to."

On December 29th, 2017 the solar array was turned on. Within one month of interconnection, the system had already reduced the school's monthly electric bill by nearly $10,000, even in the snowy and cloudy month of February. 

​"When we dove into the numbers, we found that it was financially irresponsible NOT to invest in this project. With State Aid, we were able to offset 90% of the costs of the solar system, and the $125,000 we save a year on energy equals what would be a 2.5% levy on the tax burden”.

​-Jeff Kisloski, Superintendent, Candor Central Schools

​Fast forward May 2018, and Jeff is standing in a crowd of fifty 6th grade students and several Renovus representatives. As they hear about the solar array that is powering their school district, you can sense a substantial amount of community pride.

When asked about what this project means for his students, Jeff says; "the kids are going to grow up in a different world than we grew up in...I hope they see that their school district was creative and responsible when it came to making decisions about its energy consumption". True to his fiscal roots, Jeff gathers the mass of kids and earns their focus as only a former educator could. He explains to the restless class that "You all will be taxpayers someday, and it's important that you learn about how the decisions we make today, will impact our community in the future."

While no one would blame a sixth grader for not grasping the long-term view taken by their district, they certainly are lucky to have a team at the helm that does.


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