Solar power a boon to Carson schools

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The Carson City School District cut its energy bill at five schools by nearly $300,000 in a year, mostly due to solar power, a school official said Tuesday.

Mark R. Korinek, manager of district operation services, detailed savings in excess of 50 percent during a talk to the Rotary Club of Carson City. He said afterward that up to 80 percent of those energy-cost savings were attributable to the district’s photovoltaic solar panel installations at Carson High School, Eagle Valley and Carson middle schools, and Seeliger and Fritsch elementary schools.

The savings he cited were $295,900 from 2010-11 to 2011-12, with costs plummeting from $580,300 to $284,400.

“Per capita,” said Korinek of the district’s nearly two megawatts in solar power, “I think we have the largest (system) in the state.” Washoe County has about 3 megawatts, but it is a much larger district, he said.

Carson High, which has nearly 1 megawatt, saw costs drop to $137,000 in 2011-12 from the $292,000 tab the previous fiscal year. Carson Middle School dropped from $106,500 to $49,300 in the same period. Eagle Valley Middle School decreased from $70,800 to $26,700. Seeliger power costs fell from $55,000 to $25,800, and Fritsch recorded a drop from $56,000 to $45,600.

Korinek cited not only the savings, but better air quality, lighting that includes natural light and good interior electrical lighting at schools, the chance to teach students about renewable-energy opportunities, and other benefits stemming from conversion to heavy reliance on solar power.

“It’s not just about renewable energy,” he said.

In addition, Korinek said, the project partially paid for itself via Nevada Energy utility rebates. He said $9.7 million in rebates helped fund the $12 million project. The panels have a life expectancy of 25 or 30 years, but the payback period is less than five years, Korinek said.

Not every projection was exactly on target, he said, but the expected savings will grow as power costs rise in the future.

“I think we don’t have as much savings as (originally) anticipated,” he said. But he said it still has been considerable for the district.

To bring his examples down to a cost scale with which listeners could relate, he told the Rotarians at the Carson Nugget that Carson High power now costs 82 cents per square foot, while Mark Twain Elementary School — which doesn’t have solar power — requires more than double that at $1.68 a square foot. His focused much of his report on the Carson High results.

“It’s the building that we save the most amount of money on,” he said.

Superintendent Richard Stokes, when he introduced Korinek before the talk, called the district’s operations manager the power behind the successful photovoltaic solar panel plan.


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