Tucson's largest school district taps into southern Arizona's biggest energy source

TUCSON, AZ (TNN) – More southern Arizona schools are using one of our most abundant resources to help one of our most precious ones.

Marana completed a solar project this summer to put panels on eight schools with no cost to the district.  They pay the panels' owner for the electricity.  Now, Tucson Unified School District is pursuing a similar avenue.

TUSD will start with seven schools, which are Erickson, Gale, Henry, Marshall, Soleng Tom, and Wheeler elementary schools along with Secrist middle school.  But those are only the first of forty TUSD schools to do so.

By early 2015, those schools will have panels installed by Natural Power and Energy and run by Constellation, which is still in negotiations with TUSD.  The district will pay the company same electricity rate for 20 years, which will create millions in savings as Tucson Electric Power rates go up.

"With our current projections of TEP's rates increasing at one point five percent per year, over the 20 year project we'll save approximately 11 million.  But if TEP's rates go up to three percent, we could be saving almost 20 million dollars for the district," said James Burns, TUSD operations business office coordinator.

Tanque Verde and Vail school districts are also making use of solar in similar ways.  TUSD points out that it did not use TEP incentives for its solar panels, so that it can keep any renewable energy credits that might generate.  The district may be able to make money by selling them in the future.

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