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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 Keeir on 9/19/2011 11:49:24 AM , Rating: 2
Errr... a second minor quibble.

School Buildings are rarely (though somethimes) turned over to private industry to be used as is. In my area in the past decade, 7 schools properties have been auctioned off... in each of the 7 cases, the schools were torn down after several years of enviromental studies on thier replacement structures.

Removing the panels and selling them may also not be easy. Knowing the government, they will hire a firm to remove them and hire another firm to sell them. I doubt even if they removed them 2 years after installing them, they would get 20 cents/dollar.

quote:
In that light I find it hard to see what you don't like about this plan. Unless you just plain don't like solar energy.


Ummm... I think some people just don't trust small local government to run a large investment of this type or to have done the economic studies throughly enough to have confidence in the 16 year period.

When I hear a Government project has a 16 year projected payback period, my brain processes 25-30 year payback period after construction overruns, bad contracts, upgraded wiring, a fancy control system that isn't needed, and poor placement of the panels on the roof.


RE: Bad economic analysis once more
By Spuke on 9/19/2011 12:10:40 PM , Rating: 3
At the size of the typical solar arrays for commercial or even residential buildings, "fancy control systems" are about all you can get. Besides, if they're going to be spending 10s of thousands of dollars on panels with my tax money, I want the fancy control system, expensive efficient panels and whatever else to get the most from the money spent. All of the local school districts have solar panels. Instead of putting them on the buildings where roof space is somewhat limited and shadows could be an issue, they put them over the parking lots. So not only do they gain MUCH more sq ft and no shading issues, they also keep cars out of direct sunlight. We're in the desert (CA) and I've been in one of those parking lots in the summer before the panels, I really appreciate the shade now. It's MUCH cooler.

I have no issues at all with these projects. Quite frankly, I'm shocked that they would do anything at all to try and save us some money. This IS California you know.


RE: Bad economic analysis once more
By Keeir on 9/19/2011 12:42:51 PM , Rating: 2
Errr... its nice they are shading the cars.... I thought that perhaps it would be better to shade the building and reduce air conditioning costs.... but I admit to having never seen the numbers.

quote:
Quite frankly, I'm shocked that they would do anything at all to try and save us some money. This IS California you know.


Yep. But keep in mind, this a local government offical in California claiming the project will save you money...


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