California district is installing solar array at 9 schools

Jan. 16, 2012
William Hart Union High School District wants panels to generate most of the energy needed to run the school system

The William S. Hart Union High School District, based in Santa Clarita, Calif., has begun installing a 7.3 megawatt solar project that will save the district an estimated $18 million to $20 million over 20 years. Nine campuses are slated to receive solar array installations that will provide as much as 85 percent of the district's historical energy consumption.

The district has entered into a power purchase agreement with a private company that will install operate, monitor and maintain the solar arrays at no upfront cost to the school system.

The solar array will reduce carbon emissions by more than 130,000 tons over 20 years -- the equivalent of cutting automobile driving by more than 300 million miles. The district says the panels will be installed on up to 10 campuses. Steel-frame canopies will support the solar panels and provide shaded parking for about 2,300 faculty and student vehicles. In addition, some campuses will have ground-mounted solar arrays.
Initially, the Hart Union wanted to install solar panels on building roofs. However, fire codes and roof obstructions on some buildings reduced the area available for panels, and other buildings did not have the needed structural strength to accommodate solar arrays.

Schools were selected based on their ability to absorb direct sunlight without trees or other obstructions shading the structures. Pole lighting in the affected parking lots will be replaced by more cost-effective lighting that will be mounted beneath the canopies for enhanced personal safety.

The district says the installation, which began in November, will be completed by March.

See more information and photos of the installation at the district's Facebook page for the solar initiative.

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