Gavilan Goes Solar

Gav Solar Plan

Gavilan Community College hopes by the end of 2017 to plug into a powerful new energy source to light and heat the Gilroy campus — the sun.
Picking up on a nationwide solar energy trend that last year added Gilroy Unified School District to the list of true believers, college officials have teamed with a state college consultant to design their own sun-powered college campus.
That expert, from the California Community College League, will help Gavilan officials plan, design, install and arrange financing for an expansive array of solar panels that are expected to bring the school upwards of $250,000-$280,000 a year in energy and related savings.
“We look forward to it being a really successful project,” said Fred Harris, Gavilan’s vice president for administrative services.
The school will seek $8 million in low interest federal tax financing to build the solar system, with construction expected later this year and first energy production by Jan. 2018.
College trustee Walt Glines likes the idea but is waiting for more information.
“It seems as though it could well be a good ideaósaving money from PG&E bills and generating electricity from solar panels,” he said Tuesday.
“But as always with projects like this the devil is in the details. That’s what we’re doing at this time, getting details.”
He said heíd also suggest that the metal girders that support the solar panels be part of an art project, calling the installations themselves “rather stark and boring…why not dress up the part everyone can see?”
A similar project announced in 2015 by Gilroy Unified School District officials and that was to have been completed last summer was instead put on hold when the solar contractor had financial problems.
GUSD officials just last week announced its solar plan is back on track for 2017. It will involve the installation of solar panels at parking lots at Gilroy and Christopher high schools.
At Gavilan College, lengthy arrays of solar panels will be installed over two of the school’s biggest parking fields, in effect providing covered parking, shade, protection from rain and added safety factors for thousands of students while collecting solar power for the school’s grid.
One area involved is parking field A. It’s the main parking field located at the north end of the campus, at its main entrance off Santa Teresa Boulevard.
The other is parking field C. It runs along the campus’s eastern edge just off the boulevard and immediately south of the Dr. TJ Owens Gilroy Early College Academy.
Moving forward, the college board of trustees has agreed to issue a request for proposals, or RFP, from solar vendors and will develop the $8 million project “as a clean renewable energy bond project, eligible to be financed with “Clean Renewable Energy Bonds” (“CREBs”) under Section 54C of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986.”
As such, the college will submit an application to the U.S. Internal Revenue Service for a bond allocation of up to $8 million in financing, according to the board’s Dec. 13, 2016 resolution.
Working with Harris, the vendor will be responsible for engineering, procurement of materials and construction of the solar project and its operation and maintenance and would also have to guarantee future energy generation performance, according to the procedures adopted by the board of trustees.
Final terms of the vendor contract will be presented to the board for possible adoption on May 9, 2017.
Harris said that using free energy from the sun brings “all sorts of side benefits,” including reducing greenhouse gasses and offsetting a large percent of the campus demand for energy.
The net benefits to the college, including savings of $250,000-$280,000 per year, will last at least 30 years, he said.

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