California High School Expects to Save Money and Environment With Solar Panels

AMERICAN CANYON, Calif. — SPG Solar and Quattrocchi Kwok Architects (QKA), both based in Santa Rosa, Calif., installed a 1-megawatt DC ground and rooftop solar power system at American Canyon High School (ACHS), part of the Napa Valley Unified School District (NVUSD).

The new energy system is projected to save up to $17 million over the next 25 years, according to Jennifer Monteleone, vice president of marketing at SPG Solar. At capacity, the system will provide 80 percent of the electricity for the school and produce more than 1.1 million kilowatt-hours annually, enough to power more than 105 American homes annually.

The system will also save NVUSD money by earning solar renewable energy credits from any unused electricity generated by the solar power system. The cost savings could be significant, especially during the summer months when students are not regularly attending classes.

“This system will provide long-term financial savings and hands-on learning for the students about the positive impact of solar power,” said Chris Robine, CEO and president of SPG Solar.

The project consists of more than 4,000 solar panels installed on the roof and grounds of the school and will serve as the main power provider for the campus.

The total installation cost for the system was $5 million, according to Don Evans, head of NVUSD’s planning and construction. However, funds reserved for the school’s construction budget offset 65 percent of the cost and Pacific Gas & Electric rebates accounted for the remaining 35 percent of the costs.

ACHS is certified by the Collaborative for High Performance Schools (CHPS), a program similar to LEED. CHPS provides a green building rating system for K-12 schools and awarded American Canyon High School the highest rating in California.

The 680 students enrolled at ACHS, as well as others in the NVUSD, will benefit from the school’s sustainable energy efforts. Since the school has not yet reached its capacity of 2,200 students, the savings from the solar power system are currently estimated to be at 100 percent. However, once the school meets capacity, about 80 percent of the school’s electricity will be generated by the solar panels.

NVUSD will also unveil another campus with a solar power system in a month. New Tech High School in Napa, Calif., will have the same system as ACHS but on a relatively smaller scale. The $2 million project by Sacramento, Calif.-based Roebbelen Construction, is a continuation of the school’s “go green” design. New Tech High School also features an irrigation system designed to process reclaimed water to irrigate plants around the facility.

The benefits of a solar power system will not only save schools money over the years, but will also help reduce the amount of carbon dioxide entering the air by 780,000 pounds per year.

“The new solar power system at American Canyon High School is an excellent example of NVUSD’s leadership. By building upon the sustainable design of their campus and showing their commitment to the environment, the district will save a significant amount of money that can now be used for educational purposes,” said Aaron Jobson, principal at Quattrocchi Kwok Architects.