Coachella Valley Schools Go Solar

PALM DESERT, Calif. — A Southern California real estate/renewable energy development and investment firm is installing a 300-kilowatt solar power system at Xavier College Preparatory High School in Palm Desert. The project, which is being produced by Palm Desert-based Noble and Co., will be completed in early January.  Officials estimate the project will generate 80 to 100 percent of the school’s energy needs.
Noble has plans for installing solar panels at Palm Springs High School and wind turbines at Two Bunch Palms Elementary School in Desert Hot Springs during 2011, although those plans have not been finalized. Solar panels have already been installed at the new Oasis School in Thermal and are planned for the North Shore elementary school currently being designed.

The solar and wind power systems are going in with an eye toward teaching students about renewable energy technology and saving schools money on their utility bills. Xavier’s solar power system is expected to shave 15 to 20 percent off of the school’s $65,000 annual electricity bill.

Estimated to cost $1.6 million, the system is being installed at no cost to the school with the help of a $400,000 federal treasury grant, a $750,000 Imperial Irrigation District grant, and $500,000 from Noble, which concluded a power purchase agreement with Xavier.

In October, Palm Springs Unified School District’s Board of Education agreed to commit $2.5 million from construction funds to green projects, including a solar and a wind project budgeted for $500,000 each. The rest of the funding is dedicated to energy conservation projects such as lighting replacement and energy management systems.

The wind project at Two Bunch Palms Elementary, which is awaiting environmental clearance, will likely begin constructed in 2011. It will take approximately eight years for the school to pay the money back on the turbines.