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San Ramon Valley Unified School District installs 10k photovoltaic panels at five schools

In a move that is proving to be controversial with some, some California school districts are looking to a high-tech way to save money, even if the payback won't be achieved until well over a decade later. CNN is reporting that some California school districts are looking to low-interest federal loans to install solar panels on schools.

CNN singled out the San Ramon Valley Unified School District, which has installed roughly 10,000 photovoltaic panels at five of its 35 total schools at a cost of $23 million. Under the most optimistic projections, the photovoltaic panels would offset energy usage at the schools by 67 to 75 percent. 

According to spokesman Terry Koehne, the San Ramon Valley Unified School District will pay back the loans courtesy of the energy savings from using the solar installations. However, this won't be a quick payback for the school system -- it will take roughly 16 years to break even on the photovoltaic panels.

Koehne, however, points to the upside of embarking on this expensive venture; "It's pure profit after that. And following that, we're going to start realizing savings of $2 (million), $3 (million), $4 million a year."

Like many schools across the nation, California schools are facing a serious budget crunch. Less money means fewer teachers, fewer teaching assistants, and more students per classroom. By making this move now, the school district is hoping that the future payoff will allow it use its resources more wisely. 

Lower production costs, thanks to stiff competition from Chinese companies, is causing a surge in the adoption of solar panels. One of the causalities of the race to the bottom in panel costs was Silicon Valley-based Solyndra. The company received a rushed $535 million loan courtesy of the Obama industry during 2009 in order to bolster its operations.

However, the company two years later filed for bankruptcy and axed over 1,000 employees. Interestingly, an email that was sent out before final approval of the loan was granted rightly projected that the company would run out of money by September 2011. 

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RE: Bad economic analysis once more
By TSS on 9/18/2011 5:42:30 PM , Rating: 5
Who do you think pays for the school's energy bill? Which will be much, much smaller with these panels?

I find it funny you want to "reduce the national debt", but are against a sollution which will make sure less tax money is spent. It is you who isn't thinking about the future.

Oh and tax money has never in history built jobs or "cost effective" infrastructure. The whole reason tax money gets put towards infrastructure is because it's NOT cost effective and such no private corperation would ever do it, even though it's needed by the people.

How about you practice what you preach and stop wasting energy making stupid comments that don't make sense.

By lagomorpha on 9/18/2011 10:17:58 PM , Rating: 4
You would see a much better, faster return on investment by tearing down Chicago's ancient school buildings and replacing them with buildings with modern insulation. At the moment they just leave the heat running full tilt and the teachers adjust the windows to control the temperature in the rooms because the buildings heat so unevenly. Unfortunately solar panels are new and sexy, fiberglass is not. So which gets the loans...

RE: Bad economic analysis once more
By tayb on 9/19/2011 8:55:22 PM , Rating: 1
Spending hundreds of millions on solar arrays that may pay for itself in 10+ is not a solid investment. The return is way too risky given the rapid advancements in these fields.

You call it "forward thinking" I call it misappropriation of funds and/or earmarking.

And when you are $14,200,000,000,000 in debt you DO NOT have the money to build solar arrays that may pay themselves in 10 years. I didn't mistype that debt number either.

By mindless1 on 9/20/2011 9:33:01 PM , Rating: 2
Remember that it's not just the school paying back this loan, the nation is in debt and paying on this money too!

The answer to cut the energy bill is use less power! The fact is, energy from solar panels costs MORE per KWH.

Read that last sentence again and think about it. If we, as a society, spend money on less cost effective ways to generate power we are not saving money.

Instead, we are just creating a bigger money pit in the educational system, money they will just waste away as usual with the rest of us having a larger tax burden and larger national debt.

It's not just this one project I am against, it's the principle, it's this backwards idiotic shell game that costs us all money because people like you have your head in the clouds and aren't thinking through the bigger picture about where the money is going and what it could be bette spent on, or not spent at all.

"I'm an Internet expert too. It's all right to wire the industrial zone only, but there are many problems if other regions of the North are wired." -- North Korean Supreme Commander Kim Jong-il

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