Nevada schools go solar

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The Clark County School District in Nevada will invest $4 million in photovoltaic (PV) arrays for up to 20 schools within the district. The district expects that the panels will provide about 25 percent of the power needed by the district. While they will have to pay the $4 million up front, it will be eligible for rebates that, if solar installations are made at all 20 schools, would actually add up to about $5 million, according to the Las Vegas Review Journal. That’s more than paying for the PV panels, and covers much of the design and installation costs.

The district will receive $1.44 million in federal stimulus money when it completes installations at five schools. NV Energy, which supplies power to the schools, will give the school district an additional $1.2 million rebate for installing solar at the first five schools. The NV Energy rebate amounts to $5 per installed watt of PV power. As more schools are outfitted with PV arrays, the district will receive more incentives, the newspaper reported.

Each of the first five schools are being outfitted with 50 kilowatt (kW) PV rooftop arrays. The Las Vegas Review Journal reported that the school district is purchasing PV at between $5 and $5.50 per watt. So for each of the first five 50 kW systems, the school will receive a one-time $250,000 rebate from NV Energy.

According to the district, the systems will be grid-tied, allowing the schools to sell additional produced energy back on the electric grid. The district has requested proposals on a number of its planned PV arrays but none were started as of this writing. That’s despite plans to have PV systems operational by November 2010.

The installations are expected to save the district about $190,000 each year over the next 20 years, Paul Gerner, associate superintendent of facilities, told the newspaper. He added, "We know any (solar) watt will generate $4.40 worth of energy at today's price." If electricity prices rise, the district will save even more money on its sunny investment.