Solar power saves school district $68,672
By Robert Green
Three North Sanpete County schools running primarily on solar power for the past six months have saved the school district $68,672, according to Superintendent Sam Ray.
The energy savings were reported by a representative of energy contractor Siemens at the November North Sanpete School Board meeting.
The district has partnered with Siemens and the Rocky Mountain Power Blue Sky program to build solar arrays at the North Sanpete Middle School, Moroni Elementary and Fountain Green Elementary.
All three systems are designed to utilize energy conservation devices and net metering, where unused generated solar power can be fed into the power grid to offset costs.
However, by far the biggest savings comes from the schools generating their own electricity and not having to buy as much power from the utility company, Ray said.
All three schools are meeting a target of generating 80 percent of their electricity, Ray said.
And in the summer months, when school is out but he sun is beating down in full force, the school district can sell the excess energy it generates back to Rocky Mountain Power, Ray said. This provides additional savings and will help the district pay off the bond it took off to finance energy upgrades.
A performance review of the three schools by Siemens from April to Septembers show most operations are expected to exceed the cost savings Siemens guaranteed when it designed the systems.”
The solar panels at Fountain Green Elementary were not working at full capacity during this period due to trip breaker problems; and solar production at Fountain Green was slightly short of expectations, but the situation is being resolved, and more savings should be realized in the future, Ray said.
The solar arrays at North Sanpete Middle School and Moroni Elementary were producing energy consistently during this time frame.
Superintendent Ray is proud of the district’s decision to go solar.
“Thanks to the Rocky Mountain Power Blue Sky program we were able to make this whole project possible and put up all these solar panels,” Ray said. “It will help us generate revenue to pay off our bond. It actually helped us to get the financing at the best possible terms.”
In early 2017 Ray and others were looking at ways to upgrade their antiquated heating systems. Many of the schools had converted old coal fired boilers into natural gas, and they were beyond repair, Ray said. The district also didn’t have any funds for new furnaces and while they were looking for funding options, they came across the Rocky Mountain Blue Sky program.
The district received a $576,224 Blue Sky grant to build the solar array at the middle school and secured a low interest bond to fund other energy improvements.
To see a video on the district’s new solar program, go to http://nsanpete.org. There is also an interesting website people can visit to check out each school’s power production. It is http://www.sunnyportal.com. Click on the tab “publicly available PV systems” and type in the city of the school to be monitored.