Wednesday, September 22, 2010

District pursues solar energy grant

Project would generate electricity at Carey School

Express Staff Writer

The Blaine County School District has decided to go after more federal economic stimulus dollars to fund installation of solar panels for generation of electricity at Carey School.

The board of trustees gave thumbs up to the idea at its monthly meeting Sept. 14. If the grant is approved, about $500,000 would be spent to install solar panels on the gymnasium building at the Carey School complex.

Funding availability for the Idaho Solar Panels for Schools Program was announced in August by the Idaho Office of Energy Resources. The office then reported that it has $2.75 million in funding from the federal American Recover and Reinvestment Act, commonly referred to as economic stimulus.

According to the Office of Energy Resources, the money will be distributed to six school districts in the state. Proposed projects are required to be capable of producing 20 kilowatts of electricity to reduce energy costs.

School district Business Manager Mike Chatterton said in an interview that the district will likely know in early January whether its grant request is approved. If the district receives the funding, Chatterton said, installation would start this winter in conjunction with geothermal resource development and heating, and ventilating- and air-conditioning-system retrofits that will already be underway at the school.

The school district has already been approved for $5 million in funding from the U.S. Department of Energy. That money is helping offset the $15.1 million the district is already spending for geothermal resource development and heating, ventilating and air conditioning retrofits at Bellevue Elementary School and planned for Hailey Elementary School, Carey School and the Wood River High School complex.

Funding for the projects is through a 10-year, $59.8 million plant facilities project approved by Blaine County voters in October.

Chatterton said the district considered using solar rather than geothermal energy prior to the levy vote, but went with geothermal because the "payback" is longer with solar energy.

"The reason they brought it back now is because it was free money," Chatterton said.

Terry Smith:

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