As early as next fall, kids attending school in Visalia could be using up less electricity while they're in the classroom. The Visalia Unified School District is considering installing $30-million worth of solar panels at different school sites.
"Well we spend about $4 million a year and that's a huge amount of money. You know, in a budget that's a couple-hundred-million we spend 2-percent on electricity," said Visalia Unified Superintendent Craig Wheaton.
The school district is waiting on approval for a low-cost federal loan -- then a final approval by the school board to move forward with the project. The solar panels could save the district roughly $1-million a year in electricity, even when the cost of the loan payments are factored in.
"We would start saving between the first year even -- a half-million to a million-dollars and average over a million dollars a year until it's paid for." after the loan is paid off, the savings are expected to continue to pour in.
If the project is approved, solar panels will likely be installed at 18 different school sites. Most of the schools are older and less energy efficient.
Schools like Golden West High and Houston Elementary are some of the proposed sites. Since the schools are older, the district will opt for solar panel shade-coverings, in order to avoid any roof or building damage.
Terraverde renewable partners is a third party energy consultant and was hired by Visalia unified to help them design a solar system. The company says school districts are perfect candidates to install solar panels. "They use electricity while the kids are in school -- and then during the summer months when kids are out of school their power usage goes down significantly but that's when solar produces the most energy," said Charles Monk with Terraverde renewable partners.
If the school board approves the project, solar panels would be installed as early as next summer.