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AWC flips the switch on new solar system
• AWC will save $3.5 million in 10 years, $15.4 million in 20 years, and the project could be worth $62 million over 30 years.
• Anticipated annual energy output for 5-megawatts (MW) : 10,500,000 kilowatt hours
• Each year, the 5 MW solar system will offset C02 emissions equal to (one of the following):
• 811,643 gallons of gasoline consumed
• 16,837 barrels of oil consumed
• The energy use of 615 homes for 1 year
• The electricity uses of 879 homes for 1 year
• The 5 MW output is equivalent to the amount of carbon sequestered annually by 71.7 acres of forest preserved from deforestation.
Nestled underneath an array of Suntech solar panels, a large crowd gathered Tuesday for the “Flip the Switch” ceremony at Arizona Western College, marking the completion of construction on a 5-megawatt solar installation that surrounds the campus.
Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer and AWC president Dr. Glenn Mayle flipped the switch on a solar instillation that will provide nearly 100 percent of the college's daytime electricity needs.
Thanks to a governing board objective instituted by AWC district board member Steve Shadle, the idea of using renewable energy on campus was discussed back in 2007.
“We have the weather and the sun and we have the need for jobs,” he said simply.
Since that time, the governing board and district staff have worked alongside numerous partners, including Main Street Power, APS, PPA Partners and Rosendin Electric, along with solar panel technology providers Green Volts Inc., SolFocus, Sharp, SolarWorld and Suntech to make Shadle's dream a reality.
“This instillation will be a catalyst for economic development and job creation in the Yuma area and beyond,” said Mayle.
He noted that this solar panel project's purpose is not solely to create utility savings.
“As you know, we have five different solar array projects. If you were just trying to save on utilities, you would just go with one. The purpose of the five is the education attainment that our students are going to have the opportunity to work with.”
AWC has already graduated its first Solar Installers class earlier this spring and the college will continue to pursue additional pathways for certificate programs, associate's degrees and beyond as well as including this technology and data monitoring in science and math classrooms, Mayle said.
Main Street Power, solar financier, will be the owner and operator of the system with backing from MS Solar Solutions Corp., a wholly-owned subsidiary of Morgan Stanley.
Main Street Power senior vice president Jonathan Postal explained, “Our mission is to work with educational institutions to bring the benefits of solar power to all Americans ... For each of our projects, we weave together green jobs training which is so critical to the future of this country, workforce development tools which we literally give to our hosts and our construction partners to make these projects a permanent legacy for the community.”
Postal presented AWC science club president Alfonso Dominguez with an adult training curriculum at the event to be used at the college, developed over the past three years and valued at $25,000 in investments.
“Alfonso really is what this project is all about and all the future generations and folks that come out of the training program and get a job working on projects like this across the state, across this country. It really is the future.”
Gov. Brewer spoke to the audience about the benefits of this project as students will be trained on these technologies, opening new doors for additional employment opportunities.
“Yuma is the sunniest city on the Earth,” she said. “It's leveraging its warm natural assets and it's turning sun into jobs through workforce development relationships.”
Brewer noted that Yuma will also be a reference point for many other communities nationwide who are looking to implement solar technologies in their own towns.
“It was just amazing as you drive onto campus and realize, of course, what it is going to do and what it is going to generate. But then even more than that, it's on the campus of a college where people are going to get training and get those working skills that they need to go out and make good wages,” she said about the solar installation.
“We are very excited about what was happening out here at the community college, and it's going to be a model for the state and probably for the country.”
Sarah Womer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 539-6858. Find her on Facebook at Facebook.com/YSSarahWomer or on Twitter at @YSSarahWomer.