Thacher School Goes Solar with Help from Senior Class

California's Thacher School is installing a 676,139-watt solar power system, thanks to the school's senior class gift and additional funding from a foundation.

The ground-mounted system, to be installed by Sullivan Solar Power, will offset 1.4 million pounds of carbon dioxide emissions each year and will help the school as it seeks to earn Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED) Gold certification for a new dining hall. Featuring 2,898 265-watt Kyocera panels, the installation will produce more than 1.2 million kilowatt-hours of energy annually.

"We live in a place with so much sunshine where it makes sense to think about solar," said Ed Bennett, director of facilities for the Thacher School, in a prepared statement. "We are looking at 81 percent electrical usage covered by our solar array, and more than a 35 percent greenhouse gas reduction."

Students will be able to access the project's monitoring site for use in education by, for example, calculating data depending on different weather conditions.

"Per the Thacher School's goals, we wanted to use the solar system as a learning tool thereby integrating it with other sustainable exhibits we intend to demonstrate on site", said Jeff Smitley, managing principal of Bold Rock Energy Group, the general contractor who selected Sullivan Solar Power for the project, in a prepared statement. "We chose Sullivan Solar Power because of their experience as well as price."

The school will also earn credits from Southern California Edison's net energy metering program for any energy it puts back into the grid. Though net metering is ending in the state, the school will be grandfathered in for 20 years.

"Our savings from solar are two fold — most of the money will go back into helping fund other sustainability projects," added Bennett. "Other savings will also help improve our environmental and sustainable programs."

About the Author

Joshua Bolkan is contributing editor for Campus Technology, THE Journal and STEAM Universe. He can be reached at [email protected].