News Release: Thousands of Classrooms in APS Territory Powered by the Sun

August 26, 2013

More than 300 schools are helping to add 100 MW of solar to the Arizona grid

PHOENIX – In just five years, APS and Arizona schools have reached a major milestone: more than 100 megawatts of clean, solar energy have been installed or are under construction on more than 300 schools and 70 participating school districts across the state.

From Casa Grande to Buckeye to Yuma to Flagstaff, school districts throughout Arizona have demonstrated their commitment to solar energy development – the potential benefits it can bring in managing school budgets and the positive example it gives students of creating a clean energy future.

“This milestone represents the vision and leadership of public education in the state,” said Barbara Lockwood, APS General Manager of Energy Innovation. “These schools are not only great examples to their communities, but also to their students who are able to gain first-hand knowledge about the benefits of solar energy.”

More than 300 schools are participating in the APS Renewable Energy Incentive programs, with an ultimate goal of powering classrooms with energy from the sun. Schools are taking advantage of the APS Schools and Government Program – APS designed, built, owned and maintained solar on schools – and APS incentives that can offset the costs of installing solar.

For the Washington Elementary School District (WESD), installing solar was step two of the district’s conservation efforts. In 2008, the 32 elementary schools in the district began step one, by competing to see which school could be the most energy efficient. From there, the district installed solar on five of its campuses, using both APS owned solar through the Schools and Government Program and APS incentives to help offset the costs of owning or leasing a third-party system. One school in particular, Sunnyslope School (Phoenix), installed a system that includes solar-covered parking and a solar structure that provides shade for the school’s main playground. In total, the WESD will have 1.9 MW of solar power installed.

“We made a commitment more than five years ago to reduce our costs and find a way to use available funds in the best way possible – which would mean ensuring those funds benefit the students’ education,” said Lori Ritz, Sunnyslope School Principal. “It ended up being a win-win. Since 2008, the WESD has saved more than $18 million because of the solar installations, other energy conservation efforts and grant funds received. In addition, each teacher in our school incorporates sustainability, solar and recycling into his or her curriculum.”

Sunnyslope teachers are taking advantage of the learning opportunity that rests just outside of the classroom door. Students are able to monitor the solar generated, learn how solar energy works and reap the benefits of solar structures that provide much needed shade during hot recess afternoons.

“The lessons our students are learning are priceless,” said Ritz. “Sunnyslope and the leadership in the WESD mirror APS’s vision to create a sustainable energy future for the future leaders of this state. APS helped us to install the solar, and now we are teaching the students how it works. In our sunny state of Arizona, what better lesson could there be?”