Albemarle County was the first school division in Virginia to install one megawatt of solar power on its campuses. A new video shares pro tips to help other schools make solar affordable too.
In 2017, Albemarle County Public Schools installed a full megawatt’s worth of solar panels on six schools in the district after students sent a petition to the school board requesting on-site solar. Watch this inspiring video of how the two students, a brother-and-sister team of Amory Fischer and Elinor Glassco, convinced Albemarle school administrators to get solar on campuses with no upfront capital cost through a power purchase agreement.
Now, in a new video from Secure Futures, Lindsay Snoddy, the school division’s Deputy Director of Building Services, Lindsay explains why Albemarle Schools went solar and how it’s worked out so far.
1. Solar Education
All of Secure Futures’ school customers receive training from the NEED Project to incorporate their on-site technology into SOL curriculum. Teachers from all grade levels attend to experiment with solar workshop kits, which they get to take back to their schools for use in the classroom.
The data that comes off of the solar PV systems is easy to share and use in the classroom at multiple grade levels. Some teachers incorporate the data in classroom projects. As Lindsay explains, some students in Albemarle County take on their own projects with the solar data:
“We had a student at Henley Middle School who was really interested in figuring out exactly how the systems worked. He did an independent project on the solar PV in middle school which was really interesting: he looked at the solar production data, so it’s nice to see students use what we’ve put on our buildings [in projects]. It’s not just something they just look at every day, they can actually interact with it.”
2. Worry-free Installation and Operation
One of the the first questions we hear from customers is Can Solar Panels Damage Your Roof? As our article explains, the answer is no. Although this was initially a concern for ACPS, they are now confident in the condition of their solar rooftops. In fact, they are looking to make other buildings’ roofs solar-ready so they have the capacity to add more solar in the future:
“We haven’t had any roof issues since we’ve installed solar,” says Lindsay. “That was a concern from our facilities department – are we making roof penetrations, are we going to damage the roof? Secure Futures guaranteed that the roof warrantee stayed in play, and we haven’t had any issues with roof integrity and there were no roof penetrations when they were installed.”
Even more impressive, in August 2018, when a tornado tore out a whole section of wall at Monticello High School, the solar panels were undamaged, and continued to produce clean energy at their normal level.
3. And of Course, Money Savings
Another common misconception about solar panels is that schools have to pay for installation upfront. But that is not the case for schools that get solar through a power purchase agreement, as Albemarle Schools did with Secure Futures.
When it comes to buying solar panels vs, going with a PPA, Lindsay suggests that other schools “do your homework.”
“The Power Purchase Agreement model is a little complicated at first, but once you start to understand it, it makes a lot of sense,” Lindsay explains. “[The PPA] takes away the barriers for entry for schools to go solar because there is no typically capital investment typically [with a PPA], so once we understood the model, it was pretty easy to get it implemented.”
Thanks to their power purchase agreement, Albemarle Schools only pays for the solar power their panels produce every month. They buy power, not panels. And they buy that power at a lower rate than they’d pay their utility. That’s how they’re expecting to save save $80,000 over the 20-year life of the service agreement.
“It’s nice to see students use what we’ve put on our buildings,” Lindsay says. “It’s not just something they look at every day. They can interact with it.”
— Nicole Duimstra, Secure Futures Solar