A solar array project started by Paonia High School students in 2016 was recently installed on school grounds. Eight high school students enrolled in the Solar Energy International PV101 course worked with Empowered Energy Systems to install the 40-panel, 10.4-kW ground mount system and Schlettler rack. Once it passes final inspection by the State Electric Board it will go live.
Through its "Solar for Schools" program, the Paonia based Solar Energy International partnered with the Delta County School District in 2016 to offer PV101 to area high school students. The entry-level solar energy course is designed to give students a fundamental understanding of the core concepts necessary to work with all photovoltaic systems.
The system will provide power to an irrigation pump located on school grounds. The array will save the school an estimated $1,000 annually in electric costs. "It' not a lot of offset," said Beata Ramza, an Americorp VISTA worker who for the past year has focused on education and outreach for the Solarize program. But it has educational value and "can be used as a tool for energy independence education." The array will also allow students to trouble shoot the system in the event of failure, and to monitor data and learn about how solar energy is produced.
About 70 students have participated in the Solar for Schools program since the partnership between SEI and the Delta County School District began in 2016, said Ramza. In 2017, Delta-Montrose Electric Association committed $150,000 from the energy co-op's Unclaimed Capital Credit fund to install 10-kilowat solar systems at Delta, Cedaredge, Olathe, Montrose and Hotchkiss high schools. SEI will provide technical assistance, and requests for proposals have been issued, said Ramza.
Based on input and comments made at meetings, "Everyone is pretty excited about getting all of these systems," said Ramza.