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Lakota Middle School taps solar power for big savings; system is one of Washington state's largest

The new Lakota Middle School was built with solar panels on the roof. When the system reaches maximum efficiency on a sunny day, the school will produce 15 percent of its energy needs.  - Courtesy image
The new Lakota Middle School was built with solar panels on the roof. When the system reaches maximum efficiency on a sunny day, the school will produce 15 percent of its energy needs.
— image credit: Courtesy image

When Lakota Middle School opens for students Sept. 2, it will do so with one of the 10 largest solar energy systems in the state.

The new Lakota Middle School was built with solar panels on the roof. When the system reaches maximum efficiency on a sunny day, the school will produce 15 percent of its energy needs.

Lakota’s panels generate 38.874 kilowatts and cost $292,000.

Compare that to Puget Sound Energy’s two solar power electricity generating facilities at Wild Horse Wind and Solar Facility, which puts out 500 kilowatts at peak time. Those panels in Central Washington cost $4.5 million and are three times bigger than the Northwest’s next largest solar generating system in Klamath, Ore., according to PSE.

The district received a $95,000 grant from Puget Sound Energy when the system was installed. The district will receive credit for power generated by the solar panels in the form of reductions in the PSE electrical services bill.

The panels will operate year round, Construction Information Coordinator Audrey Germanis said.

In the first year, the panels will save the school almost $7,500. That total includes energy savings and a $5,000 credit with the Washington State Annual Production Credit Payment, according to manufacturer Western Solar. In 30 years, according to the company, the school’s electricity savings are expected to be $29,161 per year.

The district has a demonstration solar panel at Thomas Jefferson High School for science classes and for public information. However, Lakota is the first school in the district to have the solar panels built for the school.

Green schools

That’s not the only way Lakota is staying green.

According to the demolition contractors, about 80 percent of materials from the old Lakota Middle School and Sunnycrest Elementary School buildings will be recycled or reused at the new schools. As a result, the school district will save on costs for new material and hauling away debris.

Earlier this summer, construction crews took huge chunks of concrete, then crushed and chopped them into small pieces to be used as fill dirt, said Rod Leland, director of facilities. The fill material is used underneath the new school and throughout other areas of the parcel.

Other parts of the buildings being recycled include wood, electrical equipment, steel, glass and bricks. The new schools use recycled jeans for insulation and sound proofing in the ceilings. At Lakota, the hardwood gym floor from the old school was refurbished and is being reused in the new building. At the new district elementary schools, playground equipment was refurbished and reused.

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