Solar Panels Saving Schools Money

Tombstone High School and Walter J. Meyer Elementary School installed covered parking in parts of their parking lots that is helping power the schools.

The covered spaces, created in 2012, are topped with 100 and 300-kilowatt solar panels that generate power for the schools as part of the Arizona Public Service Schools and Government Program, said Superintendent Karl Uterhardt.

APS approached the schools, along with several others in Arizona, back in 2012 about installing the solar panels, which lowers the schools’ electric rate. The program picked up the tab for the installation and APS owns the panels, so the district did not have to pay anything, said Cary Hayes, director of business development at REC Solar, the company that did the work.

Uterhardt said the district’s only expense was new lighting in the schools to accommodate the 100-kilowatt solar panels.

“It is not costing us anything to do this,” said Uterhardt.

One of the goals of the APS program was to promote solar energy, and by lowering electric bills, it provides schools with incentives to go solar with no upfront costs.

The solar panels not only save electricity, but also provide shaded parking spots and shading over some playground areas, Uterhardt said.

Uterhardt said he first heard about the school solar program in 2010 at the Arizona School Administration Conference.  Construction started in 2012 and took two to three months.

Hayes said the solar project is saving Tombstone schools about 15 percent of its electric bills.

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