February 16, 2010
Austin Energy Adds Solar to Six More Schools
Through the highly successful Solar for Schools Program, Austin Energy has set an ambitious goal of completing nearly 50 solar installations at schools in the Austin Energy service area by the end of 2010. The utility recently completed an additional six schools, bringing the total number to 28. The estimated savings for those 28 schools is 120,744 kWh annually and is expected to reduce Austin Energy’s peak demand by 17 kW. Another 20 solar systems are expected to be installed at schools throughout the year.
The Solar for Schools Program began in 2006 as a way to promote the use of solar energy and educate students about the benefits. It is funded by Austin Energy, the State Energy Conservation Office, and the Department of Energy. Since the program’s inception, Austin Energy has contributed more than $800,000 to help build the solar systems which average 2.7 kW in size. That’s enough power to provide electricity for up to four months for an average-sized home in Austin. Generally speaking, each installation costs around $32,000 to complete and Austin Energy is covering 80 percent of the total cost. In some instances, Austin Energy paid for 100 percent of the cost.
In addition, the Austin Independent School District is in the process of developing a solar energy curriculum for grades pre-k through 12 that will be available to all districts. Currently, 16 AISD schools have solar installations.
The six newest schools to receive solar installations are Canyon Ridge Middle School and River Place Elementary in the Leander Independent School District; Del Valle Middle School and Ojeda Junior High School in the Del Valle Independent School District; and Decker Middle School and Oak Meadows Elementary School in the Manor Independent School District. Austin Energy’s next four installations will take place at Webb Middle School, Lyndon B. Johnson High School, and Rodriguez Elementary School in the Austin Independent School District and Forest Trails Elementary School in the Eanes Independent School District.
Austin Energy’s Commercial Solar Rebate Program has also helped three private schools retrofit their facilities with solar. Trinity Episcopal School received the largest rebate of $200,000 after installing two 22.6 kW systems in 2008 and 2009. Those rebates covered almost 70 percent of the school’s total costs. Austin Energy rebates covered around 80 percent of the installation costs at St. Gabriel’s Catholic School (19.7 kW system) and St. Andrew’s Episcopal School (20.5 kW system).