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Tenino High School Receives $351,000 For Solar Array
Tenino High School Receives $351,000 For Solar Array
Justyna Tomtas, Centralia Chronicle

As reported by Justyna Tomtas, Centralia Chronicle

After receiving $351,000 in grant funding, Tenino High School will install a solar array on the south-facing roof of the building to help reduce energy costs and provide students with an educational opportunity.

The high school received $175,000 from TransAlta and $176,000 from the state Department of Commerce for its solar project, which is completely funded by grants.

“What we did is we looked at some options for energy savings and doing some work around alternative energy,” Tenino Superintendent Joe Belmonte said. “The purpose here is to install a solar array at the high school which would essentially reduce our energy costs approximately $20,000 a year, or the equivalent of one month of electricity.” 

The solar array would produce about 86,240 kilowatt hours annually. It will also provide students a chance to look into alternative energy pathways through classes.

“The goal is to allow us to integrate this through the career and technical pathway or physical science pathway,” Belmonte said. “We want to make sure we take this opportunity to not only save money on the energy bill, but to give the kids an opportunity to look at that career pathway.”

Students will have the chance to monitor the usage and see how much solar energy is collected throughout the year, allowing them to compare months with more sunshine to see how it stacks up to rainier times. 

South Sound Solar Inc., of Olympia, will be doing the installation, which is tentatively scheduled for August. The school district is currently working to obtain the required permits for the project. 

It’s a good opportunity to save money and provide an educational experience for the high school students, but the solar array would also have benefits on the environment and the local economy, Belmonte said. 

The kilowatt hours produced through the solar array would reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 59.5 metric tons a year, he said. That’s the equivalent of 21.3 tons of waste in a landfill or burning 63,874 pounds of coal, Belmonte said.

Since South Sound Solar is a local Thurston County company, it will also generate economic impacts, according to Belmonte.

“It’s really exciting,” he said. 

Belmonte thanked both TransAlta and the Department of Commerce for supporting the project. 

“It makes a big difference in Tenino and makes a big difference for our kids,” he said. “There are huge benefits all the way around. I’m grateful for the support and I know the board is, too.”

The state Department of Commerce announced last week that it has awarded $11.8 million in energy efficiency and solar grants to reduce energy costs at six higher education institutions, 27 local governments, four state agencies and 15 K-12 public school districts. 

Centralia College was the only other local project awarded funds, in the amount of $114,000 for higher education energy efficiency. 

In all, construction spending on the projects funded through the Department of Commerce is estimated to create 514 jobs, according to a press release. 

For a full list of the projects, go online to deptofcommerce.app.box.com/v/energy1517r2awards.