Conergy Sees a Bright Future for Schools Turning to Solar Energy in the Midst of Financial Concerns

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Solar energy rebates along with educational incentives drive motivation to go solar

Albuquerque Academy's Solar Energy System

Conergy developed a 300 kW solar energy system for a California public school facing $1.2 million budget cuts. With a $178K annual rebate and electricity savings of $80K per year, the benefit is equivalent to retaining 3-4 entry-level teachers.

Government budget cuts and the economic crunch limiting families’ ability to pay tuition costs are causing public and private schools to re-examine their finances. With electricity being a large percent of a school’s cost and traditional energy costs continuing to rise, Conergy has witnessed schools throughout the country turn to solar energy. With the current government and state solar energy incentive programs (DSIRE Link) available, including grants and funding specifically targeting schools, savvy educational administrators are finding solar energy systems to be a cost-effective solution. In addition to the incentives, schools have a variety of financing options such as Solar Host Agreements, leasing and Power Purchase Agreements.

In New Mexico,Albuquerque Academy, a nationally recognized independent school, brought its 1.14 MW solar energy system online on January 1, 2011. Producing over 2,000 MWh per year, the solar energy system provides one quarter of the school’s electricity needs. Using a Power Purchase Agreement (PPA), offered by Conergy’s Solar Project Finance Services, the Albuquerque Academy is able to achieve 20% savings from its annual utility bill, without any upfront costs. A PPA allows schools to lock in current energy rates for up to twenty years and therefore hedge against exponentially rising utility electric rates.

John Christensen, Director of Physical Plant at Albuquerque Academy stated, “Every dollar we save that we’re not paying utilities, we can put right back into the school. It’s that simple.” Besides financial reasons, Albuquerque Academy decided to go solar following nearly a decade of sustainability initiatives, such as water and energy efficiency measures, recycling, green purchasing, and retrofitting. Based on the results, Albuquerque Academy officials would recommend to other schools to consider solar energy as a solution.

With the ability to manage the development of a solar energy project from inception to close, Consolidated Solar Technologies, LLC / Mosher Enterprises was the project manager for the Albuquerque Academy solar energy system. Consolidated Solar Technologies, a CES approved vendor for New Mexico schools, has seen an increase in the demand for solar energy systems from both private and public schools. “Our in-depth experience implementing solar energy projects for schools means that we are well-versed in overcoming any difficulties projects might face. We bring our experience to every project in order to ensure that the projects are both cost and time effective, which is especially important during these times. Committed to solar energy solutions in schools, we believe that visible solar projects like these create an awareness in students that will influence the future,” stated Jerry Mosher, President of Mosher Enterprises, Inc. Some of the recent sites that CST has developed include, a 50 kW solar energy system at Rio Rancho High, a 50 kW solar energy system at Los Lunas High and a 50 kW solar energy system at Dulce High.

But it is not only New Mexico that has seen an increase in solar energy system installations at schools. Conergy, a leading global solar energy company, has seen an increase in demand for solar energy among schools across the country. In California, Conergy recently developed 400 kW of solar energy at three sites for the Muroc Unified School District, which will provide 80% of the school district’s energy consumption and reduce the utility bill by 95%.

Also in California, Conergy developed a 300 kW system for Bishop Elementary Schools, a public school facing $1.2 million budget cuts for the 2011/12 school year. With a $178,000 annual rebate and electricity savings of $80,000 per year, the benefit is equivalent to retaining 3-4 entry level teachers.

In Colorado, Kent Denver School, used a Solar Host Agreement (SHA) developed by the Conergy Solar Project Finance Services, to finance its solar energy system. An SHA is similar to a PPA, but is a simpler contractual arrangement for smaller systems. The SHA enables organizations to purchase electricity produced by a solar energy system at a fixed rate, which is lower and more stable than utility rates, with no upfront costs. In addition, the SHA offers the opportunity to purchase the system as soon seven years into the contract term. Once the system is paid for, every watt of energy produced is essentially free. The Kent Denver School had initially installed a 99.75 kW system in 2008 and after seeing the substantial savings decided to double the system’s size in 2010.

Not only elementary and high schools are searching for ways to decrease their utility bills, but universities have also brought solar energy to the educational experience. Also using an SHA financing option, the University of Colorado at Boulder had Bella Energy, with Conergy, develop a 44 KW system at its Coors Event Center and a 12 kW system in its Wolf Law Building.

While the schools are able to receive financial benefits from the solar energy systems, faculty and administrators are quick to point out the additional advantages that the students receive. Byron Johnson, Muroc Unified School District Assistant-Superintendent stated, “By creating our own energy, students and staff become more aware of their energy use and are inspired to use energy wisely. This helps us to encourage ‘green learning’, by producing clean energy and using less energy whenever possible." Kent Denver’s head of school, Todd Horn also emphasized the ability of the solar energy systems ability strengthen student’s appreciation for the world and support the sustainability projects that inspire students to rethink energy production, “Our students can now see how their smaller solar projects (such as a golf cart and a marine underwater camera in the Florida Keys) can be scaled up to a commercially viable level.”

About Conergy
As a full system manufacturer, Conergy Group delivers solar energy systems from a single source and offers all services under one roof.

Through deep-rooted operations in 18 countries, Conergy System Sales sells premium Conergy products to customers in nearly 40 countries worldwide. Conergy supports homeowners, installers, wholesalers and investors in their efforts to “go solar.”. With local sales activities on five continents, Conergy has close relationships with all its customers. Listed on the Frankfurt stock exchange, Conergy employs more than 1,700 people worldwide. Since Conergy’s founding in 1998, it has produced and sold more than 1.5 GW of clean solar power, and developed over 500 MW of solar parks.

Conergy’s Solar Large Projects Group manages the planning, financing, installation, monitoring, and ongoing operations and maintenance for turn-key solar projects across the globe. Conergy;s broad project expertise ensures maximum performance from every Conergy power plant..

Through its acquisition of well-established local companies, Conergy began operating as a distributor and project developer in North America in 2005 and currently has five offices, four warehouses and three production sites in the region. In North America, Conergy is both a manufacturer and wholesaler. Conergy manufacturers mounting systems in Sacramento, CA. In Ontario, Canada Conergy produces modules and mounting systems that meet local content requirements for the Provincial FIT. Conergy offers innovative products and tailored services to its North American network of system integrators and project developers. Through these activities, Conergy maintains expert knowledge about local market conditions and requirements.

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Jessica Fishman
Conergy
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