Monday, July 26, 2021

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Solar at Maxwell Unified

The Maxwell Unified School District Board of Trustees have entered into a power purchase agreement with North State Solar Energy to build solar arrays at the district’s three campuses as a way to save on future electricity costs as well as reduce their carbon footprint.

“We’ve been working with the school district for some time to offset (their) electricity bills with no money out-of-pocket expense,” Hans Stulken, North State representative, said at the school board’s May 8 meeting.

On April 22, PG&E asked the California Public Utility Commission for a 7.2 percent rate increase on customers to pay for improvements to increase the safety and reliability of its energy system, while also addressing the heightened risks of California wildfires.

If approved, the new rates would become effective Jan. 1, 2020.

Before then, North State Solar plans to build, own, and operate one 179 KW ground-mount solar array on the south side of the high school next to the rice field, one 99.12 KW ground-mount array at the grammar school/jr. high, and a 15 KW parking structure array at the elementary school.

The solar energy project will allow Maxwell Unified to pay a fixed annual cost per kilowatt-hour for the next 20 years, giving the district roughly an 11-to-12-percent reduction in energy costs at the high school and junior high.

The shade structure at the elementary school should generate a cost savings of about 15 percent.

As PG&E rates increase over the years, the savings to the school district will “compound and jump,” Stulkin said.

Currently, the solar power systems are in the design stage. Once construction begins next year, the high school and junior high arrays will be fenced so that there is little disruption while school is in session.

The shade structure will likely be build over the course of a school break.

Once completed, Maxwell Unified will pay $36,410.08 the first year for electricity at the high school to $30,080.87 by year 20. The annual energy price at the grammar school will decrease from $27,307.56 to $22.560.65 over the next two decades. The annual energy price for the elementary school will decrease from $4,132.50 the first year to $3414.14 by year 20.

Maxwell Unified will have the option to purchase the system after six years for about $334,000.

After 20 years, the district will have the option to buy out the system at fair market value, Stulken said. ■

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