Portland Public Schools is moving ahead with plans to pursue an offsite solar power project to provide 3,500 kilowatts of electricity to the school district.

The Board of Education unanimously approved a resolution Tuesday that directs the superintendent to work as quickly as possible to enter into a power purchase agreement with an offsite solar project in which the district would retain and retire the renewable energy credits associated with solar generation.

The resolution, which is the result of a student-led effort to fight climate change by having the district lessen its dependence on fossil fuels, also directs Superintendent Xavier Botana to consider partnering with the city of Portland and neighboring communities on the project to secure a larger scale of operation.

Botana, at Tuesday’s board meeting, said the project would cover 60 to 80 percent of the district’s energy needs and could potentially save around $50,000 per year.

SolaRISE, a coalition of students from Casco Bay, Deering and Portland high schools, led the push to incorporate solar energy in Portland schools. The students helped fund a study analyzing the feasibility of solar projects in the district that ultimately helped shape the resolution the board approved Tuesday.

An earlier proposal that would have installed solar panels on both King Middle School and the Portland Arts & Technology High School is no longer being considered, but Botana said he is still interested in having the district pursue an educational component to the offsite project.


Several people at Tuesday’s meeting, including students and board members, spoke in favor of the project.

“This might seem like a small change, but eventually it will create bigger changes,” said Yusur Jasim, a junior at Casco Bay High School. “Small actions will eventually lead to bigger projects. This is going to create a change in our state eventually in our country and maybe the world.”

“I’m very excited to be supporting this today,” board member Tim Atkinson said. “I think it’s great this came from a student initiative, so thanks to all the students and the community members who put the effort in to bring this before us. This would not be before us and would not be where it is without your effort.”

In other news Tuesday, the board also received updates from Botana on the Portland Promise, the district’s 5-year strategic plan, and his goals for the coming school year.

Botana’s 2019-20 goals include achieving budget priorities; starting and executing the Buildings for Our Future school construction projects; increasing staff efficacy; creating a fiscal year 2021 budget that is sustainable; and working collaboratively with the board and other stakeholders to review the high school choice process.

“I’m extremely proud of the work we’ve done together and feel very accountable for the progress of the district,” Botana said. “I believe these goals represent key deliverables that will advance the quality of the education in Portland.”

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