Carver's energy to come from sun

Grant puts solar panels at school

Friday, Oct. 29, 2010

George Washington Carver Elementary School will be a showcase for renewable energy and could boast the most electricity from solar panels of any school in the state, school officials said Tuesday at a school board meeting.

The photovoltaic energy system will be installed over the winter and should be operational in early April, using federal stimulus funds granted earlier this year.

"We will have the largest installation in the state at any school site," said Brad Clements, chief operating officer.

Some public schools in Montgomery County use solar panels, but generate only up to 12 percent of a school's energy needs, Clements said. The estimated 700 megawatts/hour that the Carver Elementary solar panels will produce can cover almost 80 percent of the school's annual electric bill.

The large-scale photovoltaic energy system will incorporate four designs — ground-mounted panels, roof-mounted panels, panels mounted on a shade canopy and a passive solar tracker.

By far the most panels will be installed in a fenced area on the ground in the field in front of the bus loop at the school. High school technology students may help install the passive solar tracker and there will be an energy monitoring kiosk installed at the school to incorporate the design into school lessons.

The schools will buy back from the solar company the energy and could save between $25,000 and $113,000 per year, Clements said. In the process, the project will help SMECO, the local electric cooperative, meet its obligation to have a certain percentage of its energy coming from renewable sources.

"I think it's going to make quite an impression" and could help make the case for more state funding to install solar panels at other schools, said board vice chair Cathy Allen.

Martirano said he hoped to use the money saved on electric bills at the school to purchase solar panels to be placed at other schools.

Allen noted that Martirano would need the blessing of the county commissioners.

The school system was considering three schools to host the solar panel facility, but in August decided to place all of the panels at Carver Elementary.

St. Mary's public schools were awarded a $497,000 Project Sunburst grant funded through the federal stimulus package.

The school board Tuesday approved three motions, moving the project another step closer to completion. The board approved the Power Purchase Agreement with Perpetual Standard Solar as well as a grant agreement to transfer the half-million dollars to Standard Solar once the facility is up and running and a resolution giving the superintendent the power to make decisions over the financial interests of the project.

Eighteen schools were awarded checks earlier in Tuesday's meeting for energy savings last school year. Oakville Elementary reduced its energy the most from one year to the next, cutting its bill by 15 percent. Each school that saved 1 percent or more was awarded $100 for every percent saved, up to $500. The money is to be used to further green initiatives at each school.