PA School District now has Solar Panels Installed in Five Schools

School Solar PanelsPennsylvania is making progress in the journey toward using a larger percentage of renewable sources to provide electricity for the state. State and federal incentives will help the requirements in Pennsylvania’s Alternative Energy Portfolio Standard (AEPS) to be fulfilled. A recent milestone was reached with the completion of projects at five PA schools to have solar panels built and operated; the project which focused on the Bethlehem Area School District was funded with $1.84 million in solar grants.

In late 2010 the school district broke ground on the project which was entirely grant-funded. A focus of the design of each installation involved minimizing disturbance of neighbors.

With all projects completed, five of the 22 schools in Bethlehem Area School District now have solar panels. The panels are producing the amount of electricity that was estimated, according to District engineer Arif Fazil of D’Huy Engineering Inc. In some cases, 100% of building electricity is now provided by solar power

At East Mills Middle School, approximately 40% of the school’s energy needs are produced by roof-mounted panels. Ground solar installations at the smaller elementary level buildings there generate most of the electricity needs of the three buildings.

Fazil said that approximately 70% of Spring Garden Elementary School’s electricity is provided by solar. Farmersville and James Buchanan elementary schools are practically 100% solar-powered.

There were doubts that solar canopies were a good idea at Freedom High School; some suspected that they would be vandalized. So far, those predictions have proved to be wrong, though there has been some support-pole graffiti. The parking lot solar canopies produce up to 15% of the school’s electricity needs.

Bethlehem school district’s director of facilities and plant operations Mark Stein spoke well of the solar program and the fact that two schools are almost off the grid altogether.

The new solar panels produce approximately 5% of the energy consumed district-wide, which Fazil acknowledges is a good start but not huge progress.

Stein pointed out that the solar provision is just a small part of the district-wide electricity portfolio.

Other schools in Pennsylvania are tapping into the sun’s energy. In Upper Nazareth Township the Nazareth Area Middle School has a solar power system that produces 574-kilowatts. The Nazareth Area Intermediate School has a 600-kilowatt system.

Progress is good but to meet the alternative energy standards, there must be ongoing progress.

PA Solar StorePA suppliers of electricity are required to purchase solar alternative energy credits (SAECs); if there are shortfalls in SAECs, the utility companies must pay a Solar Alternative Compliance Payment (SACP). The SACPs are calculated to cost 200% times the sum of the market value of SAECs, which is a huge incentive to meet their quota. This law provides incentives for homeowners and businesses to install solar panels. The average market value for SAECs in 2013 has ranged from about $40 to about $120, which shows how significant variations can be.

Many advocates of solar energy are excited to see what the next big solar project will be for Pennsylvania, while the programs in place, such as the above-mentioned Bethlehem schools, continue to take advantage of clean energy from the sun.

If you live in Pennsylvania, contact Tall Pines Farm Solar Store to find out more about how you can take advantage of solar energy.

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