FEDERAL HEIGHTS, Colo. — On Jan. 30, a construction project began in which a 70-ton crane was used to lift 2,244 solar panels for the new 662-kilowatt solar energy system being added to The Pinnacle Charter School in Federal Heights.
The project is financed by Distributed Sun, a Washington-based commercial solar developer and platform service provider. Denver-based Bella Energy is the engineering, procurement and construction firm building the 662-kilowatt solar electric generation system for the K-12 campus.
“We are excited to share the news of our partnership with The Pinnacle and applaud their commitment to sustainable energy at bottom-line savings,” said Jeff Weiss, co-chairman of Distributed Sun, in a statement.
The new solar arrays will serve about 43 percent of the school’s electricity needs and provide an estimated $14,000 in energy savings in the first year. Over the 30-year system life, clean solar electricity will help the site avoid almost 54 million pounds of CO2 emissions set off by fossil-fuel generated electricity, and the system could save as much as $1.6 million in lifetime savings.
“Through our partnership with Distributed Sun and Bella Energy, we’re demonstrating our commitment to alternative energy sources and the need for reducing our carbon footprint,” said Dr. William K. Wiener, the school’s executive director, in a statement. He also stated that he hopes other schools will follow The Pinnacle’s green initiatives.
Not only will the solar panels help the school save, the installations will also provide learning opportunities for the students. It will give students of all grade levels the opportunity to learn about real-time energy savings through monitoring equipment. When the panels are completed later this spring, the staff and students will be able to pipeline the data into monitors located in the science lab. The data showing how the solar panels affect the school’s electric costs will also be displayed on kiosks in the school and in the event center.
The solar panel project is part of the school’s Green Initiative program and STEM curriculum, in which students are asked to use their knowledge to find ways to take STEM education through the full industrial process and come up with new ideas to reach out to the community. With a one-year grant from the Morgridge Family Foundation, the program was started in 2011 to reduce the school’s carbon footprint.
The nationally registered green school has future sustainability goals on the horizon: using biodiesel to run 14 school buses, a high school-level solar decathlon and school composting.