The U.S. Department of Energy estimates that the nation’s schools spend an average of $175 per student on energy costs—a figure that continues to rise every year. Overall, utility bills are the second largest expense behind personnel costs.
At the same time, there is a growing awareness across the country about environmental impact and the effects of global warming. And many schools are looking for ways to reduce carbon emissions and serve as models of energy conservation.
Honeywell is helping school districts in California address both concerns through a new solar program. The company recently announced that Dixon Unified School District and Riverdale Joint Unified School District in central California have awarded Honeywell solar projects expected to drive more than $1 million in energy savings for each district over the next 20 years. Under the agreements, Honeywell will install solar panels at several facilities and sell the electricity the panels produce to the districts. The projects require no upfront investment from the districts, which are able to buy renewable energy at a price below their current utility rates.
In Dixon, Honeywell will install a SunSeeker™ ground mounted photovoltaic solar array from Thompson Technology Industries at the district’s new high school. The array will use single axis tracking technology to automatically orient the panels to the sun’s position in the sky, improving the electrical output of the system. The system is expected to generate more than 1.3 million kilowatt hours of electricity annually— enough energy to power 120 homes per year and supply more than 80% of the electricity for the school.
“The combination of financial and environmental benefits made the solar project with Honeywell a sound decision,” said Dixon Unified School District superintendent Roger Halberg. “The new high school will serve the district for a long time. And the solar installation will help ensure it is as carbon neutral as possible.”
Honeywell will install similar technology at Riverdale High School and Fipps Primary School in Riverdale. These arrays are expected to generate nearly 1.2 million kilowatt hours of electricity annually, which will cover more than 60% of the district’s total electricity load.
“The fact that going green also provided a financial advantage was very attractive to us,” said Elaine Cash, superintendent of Riverdale Joint Unified School District. “This solar project with Honeywell will maximize our budget resources while maintaining clean, sustainable schools.”
Honeywell also has implemented solar projects for Pleasanton Unified School District in the San Francisco Bay Area and Poway Unified School District in San Diego. It estimates that if only 20% of California districts installed similar solar technology, the state could reduce conventional electricity consumption in schools by six to nine percent.
Collectively, the company’s solar work for schools in California is expected to cut annual carbon dioxide emissions by more than 4.3 million pounds and nitrous oxide emissions by nearly 4,000 pounds. According to figures from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, this is equivalent to removing more than 460 cars from the road or planting 575 acres of trees.
In addition to reducing costs and emissions, the solar arrays at all four districts are expected to serve as an educational tool that faculty can use to teach students about energy conservation and alternative energy sources. Through Web based portals, teachers and students will be able to see the real time electrical output from the solar technology and learn how the systems operate.
“Honeywell is helping these school districts identify the most appropriate renewable energy technology to meet their unique requirements, and doing it in a way that is line with their budgets,” said Kent Anson, vice president of global energy for Honeywell Building Solutions. “In addition to helping the schools with rising energy costs, the solar arrays also will provide students a solid educational tool for years to come.”
Honeywell will work with SPG Solar, Inc. to install the panels and expects to begin providing electricity to the Dixon and Riverdale districts by year’s end. The work will partially be funded by solar rebates offered through the California Solar Initiative, a program aimed at moving the state toward a cleaner energy future through implementation of solar systems.