A third of Campo Verde High School’s power could be run by a new solar photo voltaic electric generating system starting in August, saving the Gilbert Unified School District money and adding to the school’s "green" energy focus.
The two 200-kilowatt solar panel arrays are also the first in the district. Board member Helen Hollands said Tuesday this is only one of many solar projects she wants the district to explore.
“I hope that as the industry grows, this will be one of many in the district,” said Hollands, who also suggested the panels be bought from an Arizona company to stimulate the economy. “We will cut our teeth on this one.”
The school board unanimously approved purchasing the solar electric power from Solar City for up to 20 years. Gilbert is able to buy the solar power through a $1 million incentive rebate from the Salt River Project EarthWise Solar Incentive Program.
“If it wasn’t for this grant, this wouldn’t be viable,” said Clyde Dangerfield, Gilbert’s assistant superintendent of business services.
Solar City will provide the power at 7 cents per kilowatt-hour for the next 20 years. At its peak, the solar panels will provide about a third of the school’s power, Dangerfield said.
The costs include Solar City handling any maintenance to the panels and to the roof. Solar City also is providing solar power in the Scottsdale Unified School District.
“They (Solar City) take care of everything,” Dangerfield said.
Solar City, with headquarters in Foster City, Calif., has an office in Phoenix with 50 employees.
The solar panels will be placed on the roof of the school’s cafeteria and library/classroom buildings on the north side of campus.
The 20-year estimated savings is $372,430. The district is expected to save $8,320 in the 2010-11 school year, with savings rising every year based on a 2-percent annual increase of SRP rates, according to a presentation given Tuesday.
Although it’s not a huge amount of savings, solar power doesn’t use fossil fuels and helps the environment, Dangerfield said.
Principal Jared Ryan said he’s “excited” for the opportunities the students will have with the solar panels on campus. A display model is planned so students and staff can see how much power the panels are providing.
“This is yet another life lesson, in terms of energy conservation and making good decisions,” Ryan said. “It’s a bigger lesson than what’s going on in books.”
Board members were deciding Tuesday whether to choose Lafferty Electric Technologies over Solar City. Although Lafferty was offering a lower cost per kilowatt-hour, the deal didn’t include maintenance, and the district would have to commit to a $310,000 buyout of the system after 10 years.
Inverters will also most likely need to be replaced after 11 years, which could cost up to $200,000, Dangerfield said.
Solar City offers a buyout after six years, if Gilbert chose to do so, and the buyout would be offered at fair market value. Solar City would also replace any inverters if needed, and that cost is included in the agreement.
Gilbert school board members had previously approved $1.4 million in “green” elements at Campo Verde, the district’s fifth high school on the northwest corner of Germann Road and Quartz Street, which opened August 2009.
The other green, cost-saving measures include a synthetic turf athletic field, insulated exterior windows, shaded walkways, interior window blinds, motion detector lights inside classrooms and a campuswide lighting control system.