Sonoma County School Goes Green, Saves Money
Sonoma Academy has switched-on a 208 kW solar power project on the north edge of its campus. The electricity produced from this system is projected to save over $1,280,000 for the academy over the next 25 years allowing that money to flow directly back into education.
Sonoma Academy’s solar power system is not only about utility bills savings, but an example of the Academy’s intent to create a better, more sustainable future for its students. It will generate enough electricity to power about 50 average homes and will avoid production of 6,266 lbs. of carbon dioxide emissions per year, which is the equivalent of removing nearly 5 million miles of driving over the next 25 years. That’s also comparable to the air pollution removed by 107 acres of trees.
A Local Team: The solar project was developed by SolEd Benefit Corp of San Rafael and investor MacDonald Eco Developments LLC of Sebastopol, and installed by SolarCraft of Novato.
Sonoma Academy did not have to buy the solar equipment, or take on any debt. It instead signed a 25-year Solar Power Purchase Agreement with SolEd Solar Holdings III, LLC to simply buy the clean energy produced and metered by the solar array. Under present Net Energy Metering rules (confirmed by the CA Public Utility Commission this month) the School’s meter will be credited at established retail values of energy during the bright summer months and on weekends while it uses little energy, and pays a modest cost (eventually declining) for energy delivered.
The solar modules are all-black mono-crystalline silicon PV 275-Watt panels manufactured in the U.S. by Suniva, Inc out of Norcross, GA, with a 25-year warranty. The inverters are HiQ Solar 8kW TrueStringTM smart inverters, made in California by HiQ Solar, Inc. of Santa Clara, CA. The hillside installation and racking on earth screws was accomplished by RBI Solar of Ohio. Overall system engineering, permitting, procurement and turnkey construction was managed by SolarCraft of Novato.
SolEd Benefit Corp was formed with the mission to lower the cost of clean energy for schools and public benefit clients. They are using a Solar Power Purchase Agreement document used by SolEd with a four-school District in Petaluma, and several other agencies in the Northbay.
Key terms of the Solar Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) include:
• No upfront capital cost to Sonoma Academy
• No obligation for the School to operate and maintain the solar facility
• No fixed payments or debt obligations for the School
• No need to reserve for capital replacement or repairs – SolEd does that
• The PPA is simply an agreement to pay for the clean energy delivered to the meter.
The rising cost of energy has profoundly affected our local nonprofits and schools, who have to adapt to working on tighter and tighter budgets without compromising the quality of their important work.
“We have wanted to go solar from the founding of the Academy,” says Derice Hogel, the business manager, “but we needed to preserve capital for growth of the school. This approach was the winning formula—and it looks as though we will have nice operating savings as well. SolEd’s Solar PPA is fair, and beneficial for our program.”
About Sonoma Academy
Sonoma Academy is the only independent, college preparatory high school in Sonoma County. On its beautiful 34-acre campus nestled at the base of picturesque Taylor Mountain in South Santa Rosa, Sonoma Academy students are able to explore their interests and passions in a challenging environment that prepares them for college and life beyond. The Academy has undertaken a program of environmental excellence, aiming for a zero net-energy standard for its new facilities. For more information, contact Derice Hogel, Director of Finance & Operations, at 707-636-2462
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