Government budget cuts and the economic crunch limiting families’ ability to pay tuition costs is causing public and private schools to re-examine their finances. With electricity being a large percentage of a school’s annual budget and traditional energy costs continuing to rise, schools throughout the country are turning to solar energy. With the current government and state solar energy incentive programs available, including grants and funding specifically targeting schools, savvy educational administrators are finding solar energy systems to be a cost-effective solution. In addition to the incentives, schools have access to a variety of financing options such as leasing and Power Purchase Agreements (PPA). Due in part to these cost savings financial products Conergy has seen an increase in demand for solar energy among schools across the country.
Conergy has been supporting the education community for years and continued this tradition throughout 2012 by engineering, equipping, securing financing and managing the completion of solar energy systems for more than 15 different school sites across the country. Most recently, Conergy helped school districts Lemoore and Central Union in California equip seven schools in their districts with more than 1.2MW of solar energy. Conergy provided the districts with a total of seven turn-key solar energy systems and acted as the engineering, procurement and construction firm for all seven projects. The Conergy installations feature 4,776 solar modules and 16,809 feet of Conergy Mounting System rail. Producing 1,854,929 kWh annually, the installations will prevent the release of more than thirty-six thousand tons of harmful CO2 greenhouse gas per year, reduce energy consumption, and save approximately 95% of the electricity costs for the school districts. Conergy is also working with the state Department of Education in Hawaii, on the islands of Oahu and Kauai, to install approximately 3MW of clean solar energy for their local schools. Working with local partners, Conergy will be supplying equipment to the projects. Eight schools on Oahu have already been completed and construction in Kauai is slated to begin early 2013.
Reducing harmful emissions is just one of the reasons schools are turning to solar energy. In 2011, Conergy supplied Albuquerque Academy in New Mexico, a nationally recognized independent school, with 1.14MW of solar energy, producing over 2,000 MWh per year, providing for one quarter of the school’s electricity needs. Using a PPA, offered by Conergy’s Solar Project Finance Services, the Albuquerque Academy was able to achieve 20% savings from its annual utility bill, without any upfront costs. The PPA allowed Albuquerque Academy to lock in current energy rates for up to twenty years and therefore hedge against exponentially rising utility electric rates. Again, in 2011, Conergy developed 400 kW of solar energy at three sites for the Muroc Unified School District in California, which provides 80% of the school district’s energy consumption and reduces their utility bill by 95%. Conergy also developed a 300kW system for Bishop Elementary Schools, a public school facing $1.2 million budget cuts for the 2011/12 school year. With a $178,000 annual rebate and electricity savings of $80,000 per year, the benefit is equivalent to retaining 3-4 entry level teachers.
Sample School Installations Completed by Conergy
|School / District||Size (kW)||State|
|Lemoore Union School District||599||CA|
|Central Union School District||651||CA|
|Muroc Joint Unified School District||392||CA|
|Bishop Union Elementary||296||CA|
|LA Mission College||207||CA|
|Federico Beauty College||102||CA|
|Los Angeles Mission College||178||CA|
|West Valley High||245||CA|
In Hawaii, on the island of Oahu, Conergy supplied 1.2MW of equipment and secured the financing for solar installations at eight local schools; each installation totalling 125kW. The project was financed using a PPA developed by the Conergy Solar Project Finance Services and RC Energy to finance its solar energy system. The PPA enables organizations to purchase electricity produced by a solar energy system at a fixed rate, which is lower and more stable than utility rates, with no upfront costs. In addition, the PPA offers the opportunity to purchase the system as soon seven years into the contract term. Once the system is paid for, every watt of energy produced is essentially free.
While the schools are able to receive financial benefits from the solar energy systems, faculty and administrators are quick to point out the additional advantages that the students receive. “By creating their own energy, students and staff become more aware of their energy use and are inspired to use energy wisely. This helps to encourage ‘green learning’, by producing clean energy and using less energy whenever possible.” said Conergy Project Developer, David Vincent. He also emphasized the solar energy systems ability strengthen student’s appreciation for the world and support the sustainability projects that inspire students to rethink energy production.
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