California School Sees Benefits of Solar Energy

California is home to some of the best solar resources in the U.S., a fact not lost on its residents and policy makers when it comes to adopting and supporting solar energy. One application for solar that is becoming increasingly popular in California is using photovoltaics to power schools.

Schools both private and public in San Francisco, Oakland, Pleasanton, Lemon Grove and Monterey have all realized the benefits of solar solar energy. One such project was put up at York School in Monterey, California in 2007. The 37.5-kilowatt (kW) system was installed by Blueline Power. The project was financed by Solar Power Partners (SPP) through a Power Purchase Agreement (PPA), which brought down the upfront costs of the system for the school.

“Our claim to fame is to find those people who want to stand out in their particular industry or community. Their solar and renewable energy systems serve as models for people to look and say, ‘maybe I could do something like that’,” said Ed Bless, Business Manager of Blueline Power.

According to Kevin Brookhouser, York School’s Communications Director, to celebrate earth day the students at York made the decision to use as little energy as possible. The result was that for that day the school’s meter ran backwards as the solar system produced more than was consumed. Brookhouser said the solar system was installed for more than just a lower electric bill for the school.

“York has a philosophical commitment to building green,” Brookhouser said. “I think the debate is over and that we need to find solutions to our energy problems and solar is one of those solutions. We installed our first solar array in 2003 and now any new building projects at the school require renewable energy and green elements. It’s a way we can teach students about sustainability and alternative energy.”

The York School solar system consists of 195 Evergreen Solar modules mounted on the roof of the school’s library. The system is projected to produce approximately 49.7 megawatt-hours (MWh) of electricity per year and provide close to half of the power consumed by the school. So far in 2008 the system has produced 25.48 MWh of power for the school. York is also the first school in Monterey county to be designated an official “Green Business” by the Monterey County Green Business Program.

“The system has been performing flawlessly, it’s been doing really well. Distributed generation systems like this are important to the solar industry.” Bless said.

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Former Editor at, now Assistant Counsel at the New York State Department of Public Service, regulating New York's electricity, gas, and telecommunications industries.

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