By Julie Wiessner
Solar panels are being installed at all five public schools and the school district office in Winslow to help offset the cost of electricity use through a joint project with Arizona Public Service Co. (APS), with panels provided by Ameresco.
It is estimated that the school district will save $1.5 million to $2 million over the next 20 years when the project is completed. This is at no cost to the schools; they only need to supply the land on which the panels rest.
According to Assistant Superintendent Lance Heister, “The company installing the solar panels finds the funding, and APS has offered to help with construction and oversees the project. The panels create electricity that goes back into the grid and the school district gets credit for that energy.”
Each solar array is tied to a specific meter and the size of each array depends on how much electricity was used historically by that meter.
According to Joe Papa, contact person for Ameresco on the Winslow Schools project, “The project is subsidized with an incentive by APS through a power purchase agreement contract with APS. The schools project was one submitted and granted right under the wire before APS began slowing down on offering these kinds of projects.”
State statute requires, “If there is an energy project done in a school district, it must save them money,” Papa explained.
“It does not cost them any money and it gives them a cost control factor for at least the next 15 to 25 years,” relayed Papa.
The arrangement gives the district a rate less than what it is currently paying for power, as well as the ability to control its energy costs with a locked-in rate for at least the next 20 years.
Heister explained, “I heard APS just put in for a rate hike; I know the district is going to save money.”
There are 10 different meters within the district that will have solar arrays attached to them. Three are at Winslow High School, two each at the district office and Winslow Junior High School, and one each at the three elementary schools.
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By Julie Wiessner