As Williams Unified School District Students return to school on August 7, 2014, something will be slightly different.
Almost two years ago, the Williams Unified School district began developing its very own solar power grid that will provide up to 95% of the energy needed for the entire district.
Located at the south-east corner of the Williams High School football field parking lot, the 1,547 panel 450 kW solar power grid puts the Williams Unified School District at the forefront of sustainable power supply in the County.
“I like to think of it as a win, win, win, situation,” said Williams Unified School District Maintenance Manager, Tim Wright, “The solar field will provide huge energy savings for the district while teaching the importance of conservation, and the use of renewable resources that will reduce our dependence on fossil fuels. I believe it’s a great example we are setting for our students.”
The project is being funded through a QZAB, low interest, loan with the assistance of a third party contributor, a group called Pulling for Kids.
“The loan payments are equal to what our energy payments would be,” said Wright, “so there is no additional money being spent on the project, just money that we would be spending on paying the electric company.”
Prior to the solar power grid installation, the district made upgrades to retrofit light fixtures with low wattage bulbs and updated its cooling units at the three school sites. These upgrades are beneficial to assist with additional energy savings.
“This solar grid does not just provide power for the high school; it also provides power to the elementary and middle schools,” said Wright.
The electrical infrastructure that was needed to connect the existing buildings to the solar grid was completed by boring the conduit and electrical wires under the ground, without the hassle of digging of trenches, which would add additional costs.
Maintenance of the solar panels is minimal.
“We will have to go out and clean the panels of dust and debris from time to time, but most of the maintenance will be keeping the weeds down,” said Wright.
The district had chosen a traditional solar power grid over the popular parking structure power grid due to cost.
“The parking grid solar units are popular, but they have added costs of construction and wouldn’t meet our district’s needs,” Wright added.
Not just the cost savings, but an educational opportunity.
“A kiosk will be installed within the school district that will provide student’s access to the amount of energy being produced, and the amount of energy being used,” said Wright, “a whole lesson plan or educational opportunity is now available to our students.”
Construction on the solar power grid began in May and is expected to be completed as school starts.