Education

Porterville schools install solar panels

Monday, September 19, 2011

A South Valley school district is hoping to save millions of dollars by installing solar panels at six different school sites.

Porterville Unified School District is also using the solar project as a learning tool. Crews from the company "Sun Power" were working all day at Porterville High School to install solar panels.

"As long as I've been with this district -- this district is so forward thinking. They're always looking for ways to make sure we have enough capital to operate our schools and this is just one more move," said Principal Steve Graybehl.

The green energy system will not only help the school district cut its annual $2.2-million electricity bill in half, but it will also serve as shade in the school's parking lots and an educational tool.

After the panels are installed, solar technicians will be stopping by classrooms to teach students about the technology and how they can start a career in the solar industry.

Students in Porterville High's Alternative Energy Academy are excited.

"To me it's interesting it's really interesting and not many people know how to do these things so I'm going to be learning a new skill that makes me unique," said student Gilberto Ramos.

"It's going to be a good thing in the long run," said student Kyle Hicks.

Porterville Unified has been committed to teaching students about solar energy for the last few years. This summer, Action News caught up with students learning to install solar panels on low income houses. Students say they realize the value of the project.

"Alternative energy is a really good way to help out the economy and our Valley with all the pollution," said Ramos.

Solar panels are also being installed at Granite Hills High School and the adult school. By the time these projects are completed two more solar panel projects will have broken ground at other Porterville Unified Schools.

The entire project costs more than $23-million. State bonds are paying $22-Million. School officials estimate they'll be able to pay them off before the 20-year deadline.

"We have small margin that we pay but within this project we have calculated savings out that in about 10 years we will have become cash positive on the project," said Director of Facility Development Owen Fish. Which means more cash for the district to spend on education and student programs.

The solar panel projects at Porterville and Granite Hills High Schools are expected to be complete in mid-October.

Porterville's third high school, Monache High, will break ground on its solar panel project within the next two weeks.

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Tags:
environment, tulare county, porterville, education, jessica peres
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