LANCASTER, Calif. — Construction has begun on a $52 million, 9.6-megawatt solar system at the Antelope Valley Union High School District that is expected to be the largest school solar in the state when it’s completed next April.
The district signed a 20-year solar power purchase agreement with PsomasFMG, a turnkey solar company that will install, maintain, and own the 41,000-solar panel system and sell generated electricity back to the district at a fixed rate.
The Los Angeles-based PsomasFMG helped secure financing for the installation, which will sit atop steel-framed canopies and shaded parking structures at 10 of the district’s campuses, providing 80 percent of the district’s electricity needs.
Antelope Valley’s Deputy Superintendent Jeffrey Foster says his district’s high desert location offers an ideal environment for solar.
“We get 320 days of sun a year so it just makes all the sense in the world to use that natural resource in any way we can,” Foster says. “We think solar represents a good business proposition for school districts in terms of controlling rate structure and setting caps on how fast the cost of utilities can escalate.”
Once the solar panels are installed, AVUHSD will receive a .22-cent per kilowatt-hour rebate over a five-year period from the California Solar Initiative. The district is expected to save $40 million on energy costs over the life of the power purchase agreement, including $500,000 within the first year of operation, according to reports.
Paul Mikos, executive vice president at PsomasFMG (a joint venture of Psomas Engineering of Los Angeles, and FIRST Management Group of San Juan Capistrano, Calif.) says the timing is right for schools and other public entities to invest in solar because of the availability of state and federal rebates and tax incentives.
“Renewable energy, in this case solar energy, really is affordable only because of the rebates from both the state and federal government,” says Mikos. “Some of these rebates are set to change dramatically at the end of the year.”