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Hawkins County schools save money by going solar

By Megan Brantley, mbrantley@wcyb.com
Published On: Apr 03 2013 03:14:12 PM CDT
Updated On: Apr 03 2013 06:00:00 PM CDT

Hawkins County was the first school system in the state to add solar panels to their school grounds.

HAWKINS COUNTY, Tenn. -

The Hawkins County School System is learning a lot about solar energy.

It has placed over 4,000 solar panels on school grounds. "Schools are just a great locations, they're large buildings, they're got large roofs with not a lot of equipment on the roofs," said Bill Shedden, director of maintenance and facilities for Hawkins County.

Shedden says they have a 20-year contract with Tennessee Valley Authority. Under the deal the panels will generate energy, which will be sent back to TVA to sell to utility companies.

We learned it's a $7 million project. Although it has a high price tag to get started, it's not as expensive as you may think, at least not for the school system. We’re told investors paid for the bill, which means the school system will only benefit from the program. "TVA will issue those cooperatives a credit and they will give us a check once a quarter," said Shedden.

That means more than $40,000 a year in revenue. "That's all pure income for the school system, no cost whatsoever involved for us," said Shedden.

Shedden says that money comes from a 12-cent premium over the market rate for every kilowatt produced. “They do that for the first 10 years. The second 10 years they pay just the going rate," said Shedden.

We learned there are 20 locations for the solar panels, ranging from 50 to 200-kilowatt systems or in simpler terms, enough power for about a 2,000 to 2,200-square foot home. "We could run 150 of them for a year with the energy we generate," said Shedden.

Shedden also told us they plan to use the solar panels as a tool for the classroom to teach about solar energy and how it works.