Albemarle County Public Schools is the first public school district in Virginia to use solar energy under a Power Purchase Agreement at six of the district’s schools. The 1.1 megawatt solar photovoltaic system uses over 3,000 panels to meet 22% of the six schools’ annual electricity requirements, enough for 125 average U.S. homes. At $0 capital cost to the schools, this project brings over $2 million in investment using U.S.-made energy infrastructure. The system was placed in service on September 15, 2016.
Adding on-campus solar panels to the school division’s already strong sustainability program helped Albemarle County Public Schools to become one of only nine school districts across the United States in 2017 to win the Department of Education’s prestigious Green Ribbon Schools Award.
Secure Futures owns and operates the project through its subsidiary, Albemarle Solar LLC, and sells the electricity to Albemarle County Public Schools. The school district signed a 20-year Power Purchase Agreement with Albemarle Solar LLC in May 2015 and is expected to save ACPS $80,000 over the life of the service agreement.
As part of the agreement, Secure Futures organizes multiple educational opportunities throughout the school year for ACPS students and teachers and provides highly visible solar charging stations for mobile devices at two of the schools. These charging stations allow students to experience first hand how solar energy can impact our everyday lives.
What are the Project Components?
- Capital investment by ACPS: $0.00
- Projected average savings per year: $3,800
- Percentage of annual electricity requirements for the six schools: 22%
- Equivalent to the electricity requirements of: 125 U.S. homes
- Carbon Footprint reduction: 2,109,000+ pounds CO2/year
Live Data Monitoring
Click on the following links to see live data monitoring – including power generation and environmental impact – for each of the six ACPS solar arrays.
Albemarle High School:
Baker Butler Elementary School:
Brownsville Elementary School:
Greer Elementary School:
Monticello High School:
Sutherland Middle School:
How was the Project Financed?
Secure Futures LLC, through its wholly owned subsidiary, Albemarle Solar, LLC, has entered into a Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) with Albemarle County Public Schools (ACPS) to finance, install and operate solar panels on six schools. ACPS hosts the solar facility, and buys electricity generated from the panels at a predetermined price through the PPA. SolarWorld Americas Inc. provided the engineering, solar panels and other equipment, all made in America. The project was financed by a bridge loan from Community Capital Bank of Virginia, with permanent financing from M&T Bank and a REAP grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Funding was also provided by City National Bank.
Who Installed the Solar Panels?
Two companies, Got Electric LLC and Mountain View (mtv) Solar installed a total of 1.1 MW of solar panels on six schools in ACPS. Got Electric, based in Germantown, Maryland, installed arrays on Monticello High School, Sutherland Middle School, and Baker-Butler Elementary school. Got Electric LLC partnered with Aurora Energy Inc., based in Columbia, Maryland, for their installations. Mountain View Solar, based in Berkeley Springs, West Virginia, installed arrays on Albemarle High School, Greer Elementary School, and Brownsville Elementary School.
What Type of Equipment was Installed?
Secure Futures LLC used exclusively American-made equipment, ensuring high quality, durability, and fair environmental and labor practices. All of the panels installed on ACPS are SolarWorld 345XL Monocrystalline Modules, with a projected service life of 35-45 years, and a 25 year warranty. Secure Futures also used UNIRAC self-ballasted roof mount racking, S-5! clamps, and Solectria inverters on the solar arrays.
How will the Solar Panels be Maintained?
Secure Futures LLC. monitors the systems production daily online as well as conducts annual performance testing and maintenance on site.
How Large is the Project?
The nameplate capacity of the solar modules is 1,099 kW DC. This is enough electricity to run about 125 average American homes.
What Educational and Curriculum Benefits Come with this Project?
Beginning in 2017, Secure Futures donated curriculum-enhancement tools and teacher training to Albemarle County in order to bring the solar energy technology on the rooftop into the classroom. Lessons in math, science, social studies, and more have the potential to utilize these resources.
Solar energy is one of the fastest growing industries in the United States today, adding over 35,000 new jobs nationwide in 2015, according to the Solar Foundation’s National Solar Jobs Census, and these tools will give our children a leg up as possible future leaders and employees in this workforce.
Secure Futures has partnered with the organization National Energy Education Development (NEED) to provide classroom solar kits, and a teacher training workday, which teachers may apply to their continuing education requirements, that covers solar technology, how to use the kits, and how to access the web-based data monitoring systems.
In addition to NEED materials, Secure Futures provides a web based solar monitoring page that allows students and teachers to access information about the schools array on their schools rooftop.
What is the Story Behind the Project?
In early 2013, a student-led organization at Albemarle County Public Schools contacted Secure Futures to learn more about solar as an option for maximizing the school’s economic resources while reducing their environmental footprint and generating educational opportunities.
This student group coordinated with 350 Central Virginia and the Piedmont Group of the Sierra Club to develop a campaign to support solar on the schools with the goal of installing solar throughout the school district.
A solar Request for Proposals (RFP) was issued during the fall of 2014 and on April 2, 2015 the Albemarle School Board voted unanimously in support of awarding the contract to Secure Futures.
The solar campaign was inspired and powered by students from across the county. These students understood that working with schools to go solar is not just about delivering an opportunity for economic savings, but also providing energy education tools for classrooms and reducing their pollution footprint.
Click here for a downloadable version of this case study (PDF)