[Editor’s Note: A previous version of this story said 100,000 kilowatts per school, when it is actually 100,000 kWh per school. EarthTechling regrets the error.]
United Solar has completed installing a 1.05 megawatt solar power system spread out over 21 school rooftops in the Reno, Nev., area. Eighteen elementary schools and three middles schools with raised seam metal roofs are now equipped with Uni-Solar photovoltaics. The new systems are expected to save each school $14,000 a year, with the annual energy generation to the district projected to be over 2 million kilowatt-hours (kWh) per year – or approximately 100,000 kWh offset per school.
A computer monitoring system has been set up at each school as well. The stations will display real-time usage data so that students and visitors can gain a better understanding of how much energy the solar rooftops are capable of producing at any moment. Hopefully, this information will be used in classrooms at the twenty-one different schools so that students will have the opportunity to learn more about renewable energy sources, and the costs and benefits associated with implementing new technology.
Unlike traditional solar panels, the Uni-Solar system is a thin, flexible laminated sheet that can be attached directly to the rooftop surface. Uni-Solar laminates have a much lower conversion efficiency rate than traditional solar panels, but uses a three-layered system that can absorb green, red, and blue light, making it potentially more effective on cloudy days. The company has a residential equivalent to the Uni-Solar for commercial buildings called the PowerShingle, and for the moment, seems to have the lion’s share of the thin, flexible solar sheet market.
If greater numbers of people start to look toward renewable energy to offset utility bills, or to simply become more eco-friendly, a solar power solution that can be easily attached to rooftops without bulkier solar panel stabilizers could be embraced by a variety of consumers. Still, solar laminates have much catching up to do in order to compete with traditional solar panels, which can covert energy twice as efficiently.