Campbell County’s schools are going solar, but they won’t be using that energy inside their buildings. The schools will sell the power they generate from newly-installed solar panels to the Tennessee Valley Authority. Robbie Thomas, president of Efficient Energy of Tennessee, says the schools can get a hefty premium per kilowatt hour that - in some cases - more than doubles the savings they’d get using the same power themselves.
"There’s not a lot of options for them to raise money, so they’re looking for anything that would work to do that and this just worked very well within the constraints that they had," he says.
Nine schools already have panels installed and three more installations are in the works. Campbell County paid for the project with a bond; each school keeps any extra cash once the bills are paid.
"Revenue that’s generated from the systems will pay for the bond and associated maintenance costs for the systems and during the term of the bond there’s some money left over at the end of each year for each school and once the bond matures is really where they get a large revenue stream," says Thomas.
Thomas says this is a different way to do business than usual: While other schools lease roof space, Campbell County will actually own the system after the 15-year bond is paid. Efficient Energy of Tennessee estimates Campbell County could generate more than $960,000, after paying for the systems, from the 12 solar installations over 20 years.