The sun that shines on the schools in the Golden Valley Unified School District in Central California is close to becoming its sole source of electricity. The California Energy Commission has approved a low-interest “Energy Conservation Assistance Account” (ECAA) loan of $3 million to help the Madera County school district install solar arrays.
The loan will help pay for a photovoltaic system that will have the capacity to produce 1.12 megawatts (MW) of electricity, enough to provide all of the power needed for the school district. Schools in the district include Liberty High School, Ranchos Middle School, Sierra View Elementary School and Webster Elementary School. The PV panels will be ground-mounted and located in a fenced-off open space. Additional panels will be installed on shade structures over the parking lots at the district’s main office and schools.
Since the school district will no longer have to pay for its electric power, it is estimated to save nearly $300,000 annually, plus an additional $973,531 in rebates for five years from PG&E. Through a metering agreement with the utility company, the electricity produced by the school’s solar array when the school is closed in the summer will be transferred to be used by the utility and other customers.
In addition to cost savings, the new solar array is estimated to reduce the district’s greenhouse gas emissions by a total of 1,000 tons of carbon dioxide annually. The total development and installation cost of the PV system is estimated to cost $5.1 million. From the yearly savings in energy costs and the PG&E rebate, Golden Valley Unified would be able to repay the ECAA program within or before the payback period of 10.2 years.