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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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By undummy on 9/18/2011 11:48:37 PM , Rating: 3
If they are really worrying about the school budget, hand out public school waivers and see if a public school department exists in a decade from now.

Did the district borrow money or issue bonds to pay for the panels? What interest? Or, was there a surplus in the budget?

Did they calculate the degradation of the panels as it ages? Or the failure rate of the panels that will need to be replaced in 1, 2, 5, or 10 years? or the failure rate of the grid-tie inverters? or the degradation of inverter efficiency? Will there be battery back-up when the grid goes down, or will the panels sit around and do nothing waiting for the grid to come back up?

Solar power is like anything technological that you own. How long did your last cellphone, microwave, tv, or laptop last?

There are so many holes in this solar panel purchase that it isn't even funny. It was a gov't contract, which means some politicians, and their contractor donators, made a bunch of money. Some bond holders will make a gross amount of interest. And, your unborn grandchildren will pay for it!

California is the same state with 100's of dead wind turbines that were put up 10-30 years ago.

These solar panels are a boondoogle. Sad that it'll take 5-10 years for most to realize it.

It is not for the government to borrow and splurge the taxpayers money on eco-greenie projects with their bad math calculations and bogus payback calendars. Lower my taxes so that I can afford to put some panels on my own roof. But, that would make no sense.

RE: ???
By Eagle One on 9/19/2011 9:06:26 PM , Rating: 2
You are right, but why would any entity invest even with only a 16 year payback? This is all about transfer of expenses from the school districts operations budget to their capital improvement budget that is funded with bonds, and is off the operational books. Thus more money for union thugs and administrative fat.

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