School district implements solar-powered operations

© 2017-Paso Robles Press

PASO ROBLES — Paso Robles Joint Unified School District began the installation of solar energy canopies at two local school sites this week.

While the district as a whole has six solar energy-producing projects planned across five different schools and the district’s Culinary Arts Academy, the initial installation began Feb. 27 with Virginia Peterson and Kermit King Elementary, both of which are expected to be complete by April 14.

The school district was excited to announce that the project will not require any additional financial investment and, as a result, will actually allow the district to save mass sums of money within the first year of operation alone.

“Through a Power Purchase Agreement, the district (is) leasing the space for the solar power systems to a third party, Sun Edison, and agrees to purchase the power generated by them at a set rate which is below (what) the district (had previously been) paying PG&E,” said Chief Business Officer Duane Wolgamott.

The funds that will be saved as a result of this installation will directly benefit Paso Robles students.

“Our district will (now) be able to spend the $10,856,543 in 20 years of cumulative savings more directly on the education programs of our students instead of for the payment of utility bills,” Wolgamott said.

The solar canopies will be installed in the school’s parking lots and mounted on carports and shade structures, providing both additional power as well as lighting and shade for parking areas at the sites.

While construction and temporary closure of parking lots will likely result in traffic inconveniences, notices will be sent to parents as the projects move from campus to campus, Wolgamott said. The facilities department and site administrators are working to minimize the impact.

Overall, this has been a much anticipated project for quite some time.

“The cost of solar power generation systems has gone down (over the years, allowing) for lower rates to be offered to school districts,” Wolgamott said. “(That alone) makes them very financially attractive.”

Superintendent Chris Williams added that while these "solar projects will provide additional savings on our energy bill, they (will also) provide (students with) additional (classroom) resources and a greater opportunity to learn more about the importance of renewable energy.”

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