SAN LUIS, Ariz. — Southwest Junior High School will be the first campus in this city to get electricity from the sun, in a joint project of Arizona Public Service and the Gadsden Elementary School District.
In the parking lot behind the school, workers are wrapping up construction of a series of carports topped by mounted solar panels.
The panels are expected to begin functioning and generating power at Southwest next month, said Raymond Aguilera, the district's superintendent. Cesar Chavez Elementary School in San Luis is the next one scheduled to be equipped with the panels.
All eight schools in the district that covers all of San Luis and Gadsden are expected to get the panels over the next two years.
The goal is to achieve a 50 percent savings in energy costs at each school within 15 years of installation. Currently, the district spends about $100,000 on electricity annually.
“We saw that the best option was to work with APS,” Aguilera said. “The project has no cost for the district, and we will be able to have savings on our electrical bill.”
Jenna Shaver, a spokeswoman for Arizona Public Service, said the panels are being installed at Southwest as part of the utility company's Solar for Schools program that started this year.
“The advantage is that the districts don't have to make any investment (in the panels) and they don't run any risks, because APS installs the systems, it owns the systems, and is responsible for their maintenance and for overseeing the operation,” she said.
And, Shaver added, having the panels on their campuses gives the schools the opportunity to teach students about solar energy.
To qualify for the free panels under the program, a school must have a minimum of 60 percent of students on the National Free and Reduced Lunch Program, Shaver said.
The school also must obtain an alternate solar proposal from a third-party not affiliated with APS.