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Arizona Schools Turn to Solar to Lower Energy Bills, Teach Students New Technology
Wednesday, October 2nd 2013 3:04 PM
By GetSolar Staff.

A number of Arizona schools have turned to solar power to significantly lower their energy bills.

Arizona City
The Toltec Elementary School District is installing solar panels at its Arizona City Elementary School (ACES). The solar panels are being placed over the basketball and playground areas on the south side of the school campus, the Arizona City Independent reported.

Toltec Assistant Superintendent Jeff Vanhandel told the source the school district had a choice: install the solar panels on the roof of the school, on a car shade or as a playground shade. While the playground shade option was the most expensive option, Vanhandel said the project provides the added benefit of providing students with protection from the sun during recess.

"This option was selected to prioritize giving shade to our students rather than cars and the roof," he said.

Another benefit of the installation is the amount of energy it will produce. The system is expected to generate 606,870 kilowatts of electricity a year, which would satisfy nearly all of the school's energy needs, the Independent reported. The school will consume all energy the solar installation generates, and will not be selling any of the electricity back to the grid.

Glendale
The Peoria Unified School District, which is headquartered in Glendale, also invested in solar power in September. Three of the district's schools will have solar installations by June 2014, a move which is expected to cut the district's electricity bill by $2.5 million over the next two decades, The Republic reported.

On Sept. 10, the school board approved the installations at the Liberty High School and the Parkridge and Country Meadows elementary schools, the source said. The school made a commitment last year to install solar panels at another one of its high schools and five elementary schools. These projects will save the district about $7.5 million over 20 years thanks to reduced electricity expenses.

The district was paying 13 cents per kW hour, but with its new solar installations, it will pay about 7.7 cents per kWh, The Republic reported. 

The three schools added to the district's solar program this year were chosen due to the high electricity costs.

Peoria Unified School District Board member Joe McCord has been a major player in the district's push for expanding the use of solar energy. He said he is happy the district expanded its solar program to more schools but also said he wouldn't be happy until all district properties had a solar installation.

Solar at Schools
Schools across Arizona are already generating more than 100 megawatts of solar energy. More than 300 schools either have a solar system in place or are currently installing one, the Yuma Sun reported in early September.

Kofa High School and Vista South High in Yuma both have solar projects in the works, according to the source. APS, Arizona's largest utility, is offering school district the chance to install solar energy projects at no cost to the schools through its School and Government Program. Under the program, APS builds, operates and maintains the solar power system on the school's property, the Yuma Sun reported.

While school district officials enjoy the cost benefits of turning to solar energy, they also are learning of the additional benefits it offers the district's students. As schools install solar projects, students are able to learn about renewable energy generation and the technology involved in solar power, the Yuma Sun reported.

Maricopa County schools have also installed an impressive amount of solar technology, generating more than 72 MW at 182 installations, the Phoenix Business Journal reported. Some of these installations are also part of the APS Schools and Government program.

"We made a commitment more than five years ago to reduce our costs and find a way to use available funds in the best way possible – which would mean ensuring those funds benefit the students' education,"  said Lori Ritz, principle of Sunnyslope School in Maricopa County.

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