Lewis Griswold

Visalia school district reaps savings from solar panels

Susan Cordone, California Water Service lead conservation coordinator, discusses drought-tolerant plants for home landscaping with customer Robert Urtecho. Urtecho, who holds a Ph.D. in botany, is dean of science, math and engineering at College of the Sequoias.
Susan Cordone, California Water Service lead conservation coordinator, discusses drought-tolerant plants for home landscaping with customer Robert Urtecho. Urtecho, who holds a Ph.D. in botany, is dean of science, math and engineering at College of the Sequoias. Special to The Bee

Visalia Unified installed solar panels at 12 campuses to produce electricity and save money – and it’s paying off so well that more schools are getting them.

In 2014-15, the district saved $506,188 in energy costs – $6,188 more than forecast – and the solar arrays generated a rebate of $446,119, the district said.

Total savings: $952,307.

Visalia Unified invested $10 million in the installations using Measure E school bond money and an internal loan.

$952,307Dollars saved in one year from solar panels at Visalia schools

The financial savings and rebates are forecast to return the investment on the panels in seven years, but the payback time will be less if energy savings keep beating estimates, said Robert Groeber, assistant superintendent of administrative services.

The expected life of the solar arrays is 20 years. They also provide shade for parking lots and play areas.

The panels generated 3,313,864 kilowatts in the fiscal year.

They are located at Crowley, Fairview, Highland, Houston, Ivanhoe, Linwood, Pinkham, Veva Blunt and Golden Oak elementary schools; at Green Acres and La Joya middle schools; and Redwood High.

A second wave of solar installations is nearly complete at Mountain View, Royal Oaks, Washington, Charter Alternatives Academy, Visalia Learning Center and the operations center. These are being funded through Proposition 39, the California Clean Energy Jobs Act.

LEMOORE NEWS: Valley Animal Haven of Lemoore has been named a finalist in a contest by the Home Again pet-recovery service, a division of Merck Animal Health.

The shelter is one of eight nationwide to be named as finalists.

Valley Animal Haven was selected for its success at reuniting lost pets, adoptions, animal rescue and population control, Merck Animal Health said.

The group operates a nonprofit, no-kill shelter that rescues animals about to be euthanized at other shelters.

Supporters who want the shelter to win should visit the Home Again Helps website to vote for it through Sept. 30. Winning shelters will be announced during National Shelter Appreciation Week in November.

Valley Animal Haven operates a nonprofit, no-kill shelter that rescues animals about to be euthanized at other shelters.

There’s money at stake.

The grand-prize winner will receive a package valued at $30,000, with four runner-up shelters each receiving a smaller prize package valued at $9,000.

CAL WATER: California Water Service employees in Visalia have been going door to door to talk up water conservation in the drought.

They hit the streets of a neighborhood in August, and it was such a success they repeated the exercise this month.

Highlights include telling residents about free water-efficient sprinkler nozzles, conservation kits and water-use efficiency evaluations.

They also talked about rebates for high-efficiency washing machines and toilets as well as a turf-replacement rebate, and answered questions about the drought and water-use reduction requirements.

And they visited the Goshen community fair at Peter Malloch park.

Cal Water will host a workshop on water-efficient gardening at 10 a.m. Oct. 3 at College of the Sequoias in Visalia. On hand will be master gardeners from the University of California Cooperative Extension, representatives from Ewing Irrigation and Cal Water conservation folks.

Cal Water serves about 132,200 people through 43,400 service connections in Visalia.

Lewis Griswold covers news of the South Valley for The Fresno Bee: 559-441-6104, @fb_LewGriswold

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