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American Canyon High school shows off solar power system

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American Canyon High School hosted a dedication ceremony for its new solar power system  — a system that should save the school district millions in energy costs.

The system was celebrated Wednesday afternoon during a special ceremony attended by officals from the Napa Valley Unified School District, PG&E, SPG Solar, and Quattrocchi Kwok Architects. 

The 1-megawatt solar power system features 4,000 solar panels mounted on the school’s roof and on the ground in the campus’ northeast corner. 

The panels will produce more than 1.1 million kilowatt-hours each year — equivalent to providing power to more than 105 average American homes annually. 

The system cost about $5 million, said Don Evans, head of school planning and construction. Sixty-five percent of the cost was paid by the school construction budget — the remaining 35 percent was paid for with PG&E rebates, Evans said. 

By switching to solar power, Napa Valley Unified could save up to $17 million over the next 25 years, said Jennifer Montelone, vice president of marketing at SPG Solar. Some of that savings will depend on how conscientous students are about energy use, Evans said. 

The school district will receive solar renewable energy credits for any unused electricity generated by the solar panels. This could create significant cost savings — especially during the summer months. 

The system will also keep more than 780,000 pounds of carbon dioxide from being emitted into the air each year, said Joshua Townsend, government relations manager at PG&E. 

“The new solar power system at American Canyon High School is an excellent example of NVUSD’s leadership,” said Aaron Jobson, principal at Quattrocchi Kwok Architects. “By building upon the sustainable design of their campus and showing their commitment to the environment, the district will save a significant amount of money that can now be used for educational purposes.” 

During Wednesday’s ceremony, the high school and district were presented with an award from Bill Orr, executive director of the Collaborative for High Performance Schools, a green building rating system for K-12 school, similar to LEED for Schools. American Canyon High School is the highest ranking CHPS verified school in California, Orr said. 

American Canyon High School, which opened last year, is currently operating at half-capacity with about 1,000 students, Evans said. Because the school is not operating at full capacity, the solar power system is able to provide 100 percent of its electricity needs. Once the school reaches full capacity — about 2,200 students — the system is expected to provide about 60 to 80 percent of its electricity needs, Evans said. 

This is one of two solar power systems that have been installed at Napa Valley Unified schools. In two to four weeks, a second solar power system will become operational at New Technology High School, where solar panels are being installed on top of carports in the school’s parking lot. 

Napa Valley Unified is currently exploring additional sites for solar power, Evans said, adding that he was not at liberty to discuss which schools were being considered. 


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