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"Mt. Angel School District goes solar; Panels at two schools will generate electricity"

"Mt. Angel School District goes solar; Panels at two schools will generate electricity"

Courtesy, Mount Angel School District's solar panels are set up on school grounds.

BY: Tiffany Vu, Appeal Tribune

>>Click here to view the original article

This school year, the Mt. Angel School District plans to harness the power of the sun with an array of solar panels on its campus.

After a first phase was completed in February and March, the last solar panels were installed at Mt. Angel Middle School on July 31 and are now fully operational. District Superintendent Troy Stoops said monitoring software still needs to be added to allow students to learn about the electricity production process, but the system is functional.

“We’re the largest K-12 solar-panel project in the state of Oregon,” Stoops said. “Kind of unique for a little district.”

The solar panels were installed as a result of a 2007 law that requires energy companies such as Portland General Electric (PGE) and Pacific Power to derive at least 25 percent of their electricity from renewable resources by 2025.

Two of the three projects provide 100 kilowatts per hour each of electricity to Mt. Angel Middle School and Kennedy High School. Stoops said whatever solar electricity that isn’t used by the schools will be transferred to the city’s electrical grid. The third and larger panel system at Mt. Angel Middle School generates 250 kilowatts per hour for the city grid, which is purchased from the school district by PGE.

The three-part project is expected to save the Mt. Angel School District about $38,000 annually for the next 15 years, partly from a reduced electricity bill and partly from lease payments by Energy Wise Lighting, an Albany-based lighting company that installed the panels. In 2027, the school district will assume ownership of the solar panels.

Peter Greenberg, owner of Energy Wise, said the solar panels allow Mt. Angel Middle School and John F. Kennedy High School to generate about 90 percent of their own electricity.

“An average house uses about 10 kilowatt hours a year,” Greenberg said. “Altogether at Mt. Angel, we’re doing 475 kilowatt hours per year. That’s about 48 houses’ worth of energy (generated) per year. Basically, we’re supplying all the electricity to the middle school and high school, plus again that much.”

 Stoops said he could not estimate exactly how much energy the district had saved as a result of the project, but he did say in addition to the expected annual savings, the district did not need to pay any money for the installation or maintenance of the panels.

“All we’re providing is the space,” Troy Stoops said. “The area provided at the middle school was nothing but tall grass the district had to maintain … it’s almost a plus for us, that (Energy Wise) is able to maintain that.”

In hosting the solar panels, Mt. Angel School District follows the lead of Silverton High School, which had panels installed above its gym and shop building in 2011 to produce 150 kilowatts per hour of electricity.

Shari Read, who leads the science department at Silverton High School, said plans are coming together to offer a nanotechnology course in the second semester of this school year. Students will be able to make their own photovoltaic cells to produce small amounts of electricity. However, due to the size of this year’s freshman class, the school does not yet know whether any staff will be available to teach it.

“That’s really fantastic for the kids to actually build one themselves,” Read said of the photovoltaic cells. “We even have an electric car that the kids can use the cells to run, but that’s just one unit of the class.”

In addition to Silverton and Mt. Angel, Greenberg said his company has installed solar panels at schools in Newberg and Albany, George Fox University in Newberg and a handful of private schools, farms and churches in the valley.

“We can do good by us and we can do good by the school,” Greenberg said.



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