Augusta County Public Schools to Install Largest Solar Energy System in Shenandoah Valley

Posted: Updated:

Augusta County Schools is installing the largest solar energy system at an educational institution in the Shenandoah Valley. This fall, solar panels are going up on seven school campuses across the Augusta County, including Wilson Elementary and Wilson Middle. The panels, which are mostly going on rooftops, are expected to provide 31 percent of the electricity at those schools.

"It's a great educational opportunity for our students first of all," said Augusta County Schools superintendent Dr. Eric Bond. "There's an educational component to this project through some grant work that we've done. It's also an opportunity for the school board to benefit with some clean energy and to be able to utilize some of the savings of that and reallocate those dollars to some other programs that they may have."

The panels are expected to be up and running by the end of the year.

Press Release from Augusta County Public Schools:

(July 9, 2018) Today Augusta County Public Schools announced that it has signed an agreement with Secure Futures Solar of Staunton, Va. to install solar panels on seven school campuses across the county. The schools’ solar energy system will have a capacity of 1.8 megawatts of power, enough to power 279 average U.S. homes, making it the largest solar power installation at any institution of education in the Shenandoah Valley.

During the fall of 2018, a total of 5,266 American-made photovoltaic panels manufactured by SolarWorld at its factory in Oregon will be installed on rooftops located at Wilson Middle School, Wilson Elementary School, Riverheads High School, Riverheads Elementary School, Cassell Elementary, and Fort Defiance High School. A ground-mounted array will be installed at Clymore Elementary School.

“The good reputation of Augusta County Public Schools has helped draw parents with children to our area for years,” said Dr. Eric W. Bond, division superintendent of Augusta County Public Schools. “Solar panels should generate even more positive attention in the future, as tangible evidence that our schools are both sustainable and forward-thinking.”

The solar panels will be owned by Secure Futures and installed at no upfront capital cost to Augusta County Public Schools. Under a power purchase agreement (PPA), for a period of 20 years the company will continue to operate the solar arrays on each campus, selling 100% of the solar power produced to the school division at a rate below the cost of energy from local electric utilities. The solar panels will provide 31% of the seven schools’ electricity every year on average, saving a projected $495,000 over the two-decade length of the agreement. Once the 20-year term is completed, the schools will have the option to purchase the panels at their market value at that time. The solar panels are expected to continue to produce electricity at a high level for an additional 20 years.

“While raising the profile of Augusta County Schools and saving the school division money on electricity that can be applied to teacher salaries and other instructional needs, on-site clean energy will shrink the schools’ environmental footprint and serve as a valuable teaching tool,” said Anthony Smith, PhD, the chief executive officer of Secure Futures.

The seven solar arrays will offset 2,053 tons of carbon dioxide in their first year of operation, the equivalent of 48,279 tree seedings grown for 10 years, according to data from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

A grant to the school division from Secure Futures for $50,000 will cover two years of training and materials for both teachers and students from the non-profit National Energy Education Development Project (NEED), helping to integrate the solar panels into school curricula.

The plan to go solar at Augusta County Public Schools originated from an idea put forth by students. In spring of 2017, Fort Defiance students Elias Nafziger and Lizzie Hepler, co- presidents of the school’s Student Council Association, approached Principal Larry Landes with a proposal to have solar panels installed on campus. After discussions with Superintendent Bond, the school division decided to expand the scope of the plan and began to seek a way to install solar panels at multiple schools.

“The School Board is extremely proud of Ms. Hepler and Mr. Nafziger for their leadership and innovative idea regarding this project,” said Superintendent Bond. “With their desire to see solar power at Fort Defiance High School, we were able to work with Secure Futures and expand this concept to seven of our schools, with the hope of future expansions. Ms. Hepler and Mr. Nafziger are perfect examples of student leaders thinking critically and creatively as well communicating their ideas effectively while showing community and civic responsibility.”

About Augusta County Public Schools:

Augusta County Public Schools is educating more than 10,300 students in 20 schools. Augusta County has 9 elementary schools (grades Pre-K-5), 4 middle schools (grades 6-8), 5 high schools (grades 9-12), a Career and Technical Center and a Regional Governor’s School. The division employs approximately 841 teachers. Highlights in academics include a 92% on-time graduation rate, 960 career and technical education credentials, 1053 industry certifications, a full-day Pre-K Program, STEM Education and 1:1 Laptop Implementation. Outstanding programs include the Shenandoah Valley Governor’s School and Valley Career and Technical Center. Key affiliations include JMU/Augusta Partnership, Daikin Applied Technology Partnership, Virginia Dept. of Labor and Industry, and the Greater Augusta Regional Chamber of Commerce.

The reputation of the county’s public schools often inspires families to make their home in Augusta County. Our primary goal is to engage students in a motivating and challenging learning environment that provides them with the skills and dispositions they need to thrive as 21st century learners, employees and citizens. We welcome you to visit our Facebook page or website at www.augusta.k12.va.us.

About Secure Futures Solar:

As a market and policy leader, Secure Futures builds, owns, manages and funds affordable US made Resilient Solar Solutions® for public purpose entities. Headquartered in Staunton, Va., the Company combines state-of–the-art solar technology with an innovative business model to make commercial scale solar readily affordable in Virginia, helping customers to realize the economic, environmental, and community benefits of solar energy. In 2017, Secure Futures became a Certified B Corporation®, having met the exacting standards for social and environmental performance, transparency and accountability established by the nonprofit B Lab®.