TWENTYNINE PALMS —On the future site of solar power panels at Twentynine Palms High School, representatives of the Morongo Unified School District and NextEra Energy Resources, LLC held a groundbreaking ceremony on Wednesday, Aug. 12, to celebrate the official start of construction of solar energy systems at 15 schools.
The solar photovoltaic systems will generate 3.7 megawatts of solar power from shaded parking structures at elementary, middle, junior high and high schools throughout the school district. More than 12,000 solar modules will produce enough clean energy to meet 80 percent of the schools’ energy needs.
After going to a conference in Washington D.C. Board of Education President Karalee Hargrove came back with the desire to bring solar power to the school district. After helping form a solar committee to look into the project, she helped serve on the committee to see the project come to fruition.
“It is a very exciting accomplishment for this school board. Over a year ago we initiated discussion of solar energy. I had attended an education conference, heard the pros and cons of renewable energy and the board responded to my feedback,” Hargrove said.
“Now we are nearing completion of the long and sometimes contentious process, but we have proven that good ideas pared with determined advocacy brings remarkable results,” she said.
The school district will purchase 100 percent of the energy produced by the solar systems over the term of a 20-year power purchase agreement with a NextEra Energy Resources subsidiary, which will finance, develop, construct and operate the projects. Construction of all 15 systems is anticipated to be completed by October.
“It’s an exciting opportunity,” MUSD Superintendent Tom Baumgarten said. “ We’ve got our Freshman coming back and it’s a fresh way to start the year on good energy conservation and helping to bring solar energy and energy efficiency to our district. I’m really excited to have this project started and look forward to it being successful at 15 of our sites.”
Beyond the environmental and financial advantages the district will experience, the projects will offer educational opportunities for students and faculty in the coming years, including lesson plans, field trips, classroom activities, and internships.
“As a renewable energy company, we appreciate the educational value of the systems we build,” said Matt Handel, vice president of development for NextEra Energy Resources. “We look forward to working with MUSD to bring this knowledge into the classrooms so the students can see the value of clean energy firsthand.”