Schools go solar to save costs

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by Sybil Hoffman

azfamily.com

Posted on October 26, 2011 at 8:42 AM

Updated Wednesday, Oct 26 at 9:20 AM

FLORENCE, Ariz. -- Nestled among the green pastures near Florence you'll find something quite unusual -- acre after acre of black solar panels.

"They rotate on a single access tracking system to follow the path of the sun," said Debbie Kimberly with Salt River Project.

The energy collected at Copper Crossing Solar Ranch is providing a ray of hope for dozens of Valley schools. More than 100 schools have signed up for a decade-long deal locking them in to a fixed rate as a way to offset their energy costs.

"So it really does hedge them against future price increases," Kimberly said.

The solar energy goes directly into the grid and it's then distributed to each school.

"We meter this for each one of those schools and provide on a portion of their monthly bill, the production from this facility," Kimberly explained.

One of the schools taking advantage of solar power is Frye Elementary in Chandler.

"If we're not spending our district money on electricity and things like that, we can bring it all into the classroom and we can spend it more on the students," said teacher Tamara Kreutzbender.

Part of Kreutzbender's sixth-grade lesson plan comes courtesy of SRP. Every school that takes part in the solar program gets educational material.

"They get to really look at the connection what is it specifically that makes solar so much better for the environment than any other source of energy," Kreutzbender said.

That awareness is something Kreutzbender hopes will resonate far beyond the classroom.

"They understand there is a lot of issues in the environment that are there, and were not caused by them but they're going to have to fix it," she said.

SRP is offering a similar deal for homeowners. It's a five-year deal that costs an extra $4 a month, but SRP says your overall bill during the summer months will be lower since a portion of energy is coming from the sun.

For more information about the Copper Crossing Solar Ranch:
www.srpnet.com

For more information about SRP's education initiatives:
www.srpnet.com/education or call 602-236-2798

For homeowners:
www.srpcommunitysolar.com or call 602-236-4448

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