Solar Power Becomes California School District’s Main Power

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.

university at buffalo quantum dot solar

image via Shutterstock

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.

Kristy Hessman is a writer and native Oregonian who currently resides in California. Before starting her own company, she worked as a reporter covering business and politics for daily newspapers and The Associated Press.

1 Comment

  • Reply March 26, 2012


    Hi Kristy:
    Great work in highlighting the cost savings of schools going solar.  The savings in the long term will help reduce overhead costs.  Hopefully the cost savings can be slated back to the school district to assist educators with the costs that some teachers pay out of pocket.

    More articles like this help get the word out of the benefits of solar.  We must all do our part to keep as many jobs and industries in the US in order for us to recover from this economic down turn.  Going solar will help eliminate our dependency on fossil fuels and help reduce the average Americans household expenses.  Kristy, it’s up to outlets like yours to highlight the positive changes we can make that will make an impact.  Kudos to you Kristy for creating awareness on positive topics that really matter to us.  I am tired of the news highlighting the negative and and what’s painfully obvious, its about how to fix it.   Saving the environment, reducing costs and creating job growth. Let’s show them what American’s are made of and stop giving away all of our industries. Support green technology and American manufacturers of solar panels.

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