Madera County school district gets state-backed loan for solar power

MADERA
March 16, 2012 10:36am
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•  Will take care of all the school district's power needs

•  When school’s out it stays in session


Madera County’s Golden Valley Unified School District's goal of producing its own electricity by harnessing the rays of the sun is getting a big boost from the California Energy Commission.

It has approved a low-interest “Energy Conservation Assistance Account” loan of $3 million for the Central Valley school district, helping it finance the installation of solar arrays on site at its facilities located east of the city of Madera.

Most of the photovoltaic panels will be ground-mounted in fenced-off open spaces, with a few panels installed on shade structures over parking lots at the District's main office and schools -- Liberty High School, Ranchos Middle School, Sierra View Elementary School and Webster Elementary School.

By converting sunlight to electricity, the system will have a combined capacity of 1.12 megawatts, or 1,725,111 kilowatt-hours of electricity, that will take care of all the school district's power needs.

Through a net metering arrangement with Pacific Gas & Electric Company, electricity produced by the PV arrays in the summer when schools are out will be transmitted to the utility for use by its customers and credited towards the district's winter energy consumption.

With the PV system, the school district of approximately 2,000 students will not have to pay for electricity. Energy cost savings close to $300,000 annually, plus $973,531 in rebates for five years provided by PG&E will allow the district to pay for the solar panels without impacting its general fund. With a renewable source of power, it will also reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by over 1,000 tons of C02 annually.

Another green factor is the annual reduction of 835,000 gallons of water to cool a power plant with the same capacity as the PV system that would have provided electricity to the district.

Total development and installation cost of the PV system is $5.105 million, financed with the combination of the Energy Commission loan and a school district bond issued through a certificate of participation by investors in the project.

Just 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, based on the amount of the loan. However, to maximize savings, the District plans to pay off the loan over the 15 year term.


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