Arizona has become one of the leading states in the country in solar power production and a recent installation is continuing the trend. The Scottsdale Unified School District will soon unveil its newest solar power project, which will provide shade at Chaparral and Desert Mountain high schools, in addition to saving the schools money.
The project includes 11 campuses in the school district, which will receive a total of 5.5 megawatts of power from the parking lot shade structures outfitted with photovoltaic panels that will convert sunlight into energy. The project will cost $26.4 million, paid for by Qualified School Construction Bonds. The Qualified School Construction Bonds are part of a federal program of interest-free bonds that aims to stimulate the construction industry.
The benefits of the clean energy project include adding $22.4 million back into the district’s general fund over the next 25 years, after the bonds are paid back through utility bill savings and rebates. More than $400,000 is expected to be saved thanks to Arizona solar rebates in the first year of use for the solar panels, according to the Arizona Republic.
“Schools want to take advantage of any square footage they have to generate those savings, and many have rooftops cluttered with air-conditioning units, so they’re looking to parking lots,” Rick Whisman, a director at SunPower, the company that installed the solar system, told the Republic.
Chaparral High School is expected to be the first to have the systems installed, within the next month, according to Rick Freeman, the director of construction for the district. Eight of the solar system structures have already been built on the north and east sides of the school, covering two-thirds of the staff parking spots and parts of the student parking areas, the source reported.
The Arizona Public Service Company will pay the district a rebate of 8.5 cents per solar kilowatt-hour for the project. With the maintenance-free system installed, shade covers will generate close to 992 kilowatts, which is 20 percent of the total amount of energy consumed by the campus, according to the Republic. Despite excitement about the project being close to completion and the savings the schools will receive from having the systems installed, constructors are still digging and installing the underground electrical cables that connect the panels to the conduits.
Chaparral has been producing solar power since 2010, following the installation of solar panels on the roof, the source stated. Chaparral will have the second-largest project after the combined campuses of Desert Mountain High School and Mountainside Middle School, which will generate more than 1,201 kilowatts of energy. The next campuses to receive solar upgrades are currently going through the design process. Construction at Desert Canyon elementary and middle schools, Copper Ridge School, and Cheyenne and Redfield elementary schools will likely start in the beginning of the summer.
Arizona will continue receiving solar upgrades throughout the year. One of the solar power companies in the area is setting new visions for clean energy. The company recently proposed a community-scale solar tower that could be constructed on a half-acre and generate 100 kilowatts of energy, which is enough to power between 60 and 100 homes, Cronkite News Service recently reported.
“Today, we’ve been approached by quite a number of architects who want to design housing developments with our tower in the center because it’s aesthetically pleasing and it doesn’t dominate the neighborhood and it will create a sort of island of energy independence around it,” said Zev Rosenzweig, the solar company’s CEO.
Harvey Brian, a senior sustainability scientist at Arizona State University’s Global Institute of Sustainabilty, told CNS photovoltaic solar power is increasing drastically in popularity and affordability, becoming the dominant renewable energy technology in the state, which could pose a challenge to widespread adoption of the towers, which would power homes with a mix of solar energy and fossil fuels.