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riverviewschool Roaring Fork School District
Riverview School in Glenwood Springs, Colo.

Solar array in Colorado district will completely offset electricity use at elementary school

The Roaring Fork district has installed panels on the hillside east of Riverview School in Glenwood Springs.

The Roaring Fork (Colo.) School District has installed solar array for Riverview School that will give the campus a complete electrical offset and save it money down the road.

The Glenwood Springs Post Independent reports that the energy generated from the panels — which at full capacity generate 340 kilowatts — will be metered at the school in Glenwood Springs. Whatever Riverview doesn't use, particularly when the school is out of session during the summer, will go to the local utility's grid.

The utility, Xcel Energy, will reimburse the school nearly 5 cents per kilowatt-hour that goes to the broader network, as part of a 20-year contract with the school.

The solar array is situated on the hillside directly east of the school.

"The Roaring Fork School District is making a statement," says said Shelley Kaup, Glenwood Springs city councilor and energy efficiency consultant for the nonprofit Clean Energy Economy for the Region. "They have two schools now that are net-zero for electricity with solar power."

Roaring Fork High School in Carbondale is also 100 percent solar-powered.

The solar array will save the district about $18,000 a year on energy costs and, through the Xcel contract, will generate revenue around $23,000 annually, the district estimates.

This project was made possible through a $150,000 grant from the Garfield County Federal Mineral Lease District and a $100,000 Randy Udall Energy Pioneer grant from the Community Office for Resource Efficiency.

The district's $350,000 investment (after grants) will be paid back in nine or 10 years, says Shannon Pelland, the district's chief financial officer. 

The school also has made a commitment to use electricity more efficiently to achieve zero emissions. From the automatic lights to efficient water use and composting, Riverview has built sustainability into its daily operations.

"As part of the overall school design, a lot of effort went into making sure the heating and cooling systems were efficient," Riverview Principal Adam Volek says. "I think it's important that as we talk to kids about how they should be stewards of their environment and take care of things that we're actually doing it, not just saying it."

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