Election Section

Washington Elementary Goes Solar

By Rio Bauce
Thursday August 14, 2008 - 08:57:00 AM

Yesterday, construction workers for the Berkeley Unified School District (BUSD) laid down 480 solar panels on the roof of Washington Elementary School as part of a project by Kyoto USA, a climate change group located in Berkeley. 

This project, funded partially by the state of California and partially by BUSD, has been generating wide publicity and support for its money-saving features and contribution to renewable energy at a time when the cost of energy is skyrocketing. 

Tom and Jane Kelly, founders of Kyoto USA, are ecstatic over the project. 

“I am very satisfied with the success of the project,” said Jane Kelly. “Everybody here in Berkeley was very receptive, especially School Board President John Selawsky and former superintendent Michele Lawrence.” 

The project cost about $900,000: $700,000 for the solar panels and $200,000 for the new roof. 

Tom Kelly said, “The cost was divided between the state and the BUSD. The district realized that the school was allowed to collect modernization funds from the state. The state put up 60 percent of the cost and the district put up 40 percent. The district got the money from using their PG&E rebates along with bond money. They didn’t even have to take out any loans.” 

The couple approached Selawsky last summer about the possibility of having the school district run on solar energy. Selawsky, excited about the possibility of the entire district running on solar energy and the benefits associated with it, immediately embraced the idea and passed on his enthusiasm to Lawrence. 

After current superintendent Bill Huyett took over, he continued support for the project, and yesterday it was finally finished. 

“The School Board had an interest in going solar,” said Huyett. “We started this project for several reasons. Firstly, we wanted to set a good example for the students. Renewable energy is good for the planet. Secondly, we wanted to become more green. And lastly, we saw that it had a financial benefit: it reduced our electrical bills.” 

The solar panels system at the Washington School is a 103-kilowatt photovoltaic system, which will reduce greenhouse gases by 721 tons per year. This is the equivalent of taking 119 cars off the road. 

Huyett indicated that other schools might soon see solar panels on their roofs. 

“In the future, not only are we planning to install solar panels on our new district office, we want to do these projects at our other schools,” commented Huyett.  

Jane Kelly revealed the next school on her group’s radar, saying, “We want to get Berkeley High School to have solar panels.”