An unusual group of "solar santas" have teamed up to build and donate a 90kW solar array to the schools of Gerlach, NV, offsetting their entire energy needs and putting an extra $20,000 in the school's coffer annually.
Gerlach Schools Go Solar for the Holidays
Gerlach, Nev. - December 18, 2007- Students in Gerlach will be celebrating a "green" Christmas because their campus will soon be powered by renewable energy. An array of solar panels installed at the campus is expected to generate up to 162,000 kilowatt hours of electricity annually for the next 25 years. The total energy savings over that time period is expected to surpass $480,000. The approximately $20,000 per year savings will directly benefit the students and faculty of the rural school, according to the Washoe County School District.
Gerlach's new 90-kilowatt, photovoltaic, solar power system resulted from a pioneering collaboration between Sierra Pacific Power, Burning Man, MMA Renewable Ventures and the Washoe County School District. The panels were installed at no charge to the school district through a combination of donated labor and materials and Sierra Pacific's SolarGenerations rebate program. "The Burning Man community has long been a part of the Northern Nevada community, and when this opportunity to give something back came up we jumped on it," explained Marian Goodell, board member of Black Rock City, LLC.
Representatives from the town of Gerlach, the school district, Burning Man, Sierra Pacific and MMA Renewable Ventures will celebrate the completion of the ground-mounted solar array on Tuesday, Dec. 18. The installation consists of three 30-kilowatt solar systems, and they provide nearly enough electricity to supply all of the energy needed for the campus, according to Bruce Deetken, energy manager for the school district. The Gerlach campus consists of three schools that serve 83 students from kindergarten through high school.
"The solar panels will give our students good insight into the different ways we can address global warming issues with renewable energy," said Gerlach Principal Carol Kaufmann, adding that she is working with the Desert Research Institute in Reno to incorporate the solar project into their science curriculum.
"Because Gerlach is somewhat isolated, it is difficult to provide the students with the same opportunities afforded to students in other parts of Washoe County," Kaufmann said. "That's another reason why this is a great opportunity for us."
Tuesday's event will also premiere the Burning Man organization's plans, through the Black Rock Solar project, to install several more solar projects in northern Nevada in cooperation with Sierra Pacific and the SolarGenerations program. Rebates for schools and public buildings participating in the program amount to $5 per watt of installed solar energy.
"Our goal is to build low or no cost solar systems for communities that otherwise might not develop them, and to build high-profile projects that help speed the adoption of solar energy in Nevada," added Tom Price with Black Rock Solar.
Project costs will be partially offset by a $450,000 rebate provided through the SolarGenerations program established by the Nevada State Legislature in 2003 to encourage Nevadans to install solar energy. The program is administered by Sierra Pacific Power in northern Nevada and Nevada Power Company in Las Vegas. "Thanks to our State Legislature and the Public Utilities Commission of Nevada, our state has one of the most aggressive programs in the nation to encourage solar energy," Sierra Pacific Program Manager John Hargrove said. "We are excited to join with Black Rock Solar in helping schools and public facilities to go green and save money on their energy bills."
Engineering expertise and labor for the Gerlach project was provided free of charge by Black Rock Solar, a nonprofit project of Black Rock City, LLC, which produces the annual Burning Man event in the Black Rock Desert north of Gerlach, and by Brooks Engineering, one of the leading experts in PV system design.
MMA Renewable Ventures, a leading clean energy project finance firm, provided the solar electric equipment. The Gerlach solar energy system celebration follows on today's dedication ceremony for another MMA Renewable Ventures project in Nevada, a 14-megawatt system at Nellis Air Force Base that is now the largest photovoltaic array in North America.
"This collaboration for solar energy in Gerlach is an extension of our philosophy that renewable energy should be cost effective and accessible to all in this country, from the largest corporations to the smallest rural towns," said Matt Cheney, CEO of MMA Renewable Ventures. "We are proud to be helping the community with a reliable source of clean energy and helping Gerlach's schools focus their resources on their children."
Ribbon Cutting Ceremony: Tuesday December 18, 2007, at noon, 555 East Sunset Boulevard in Gerlach. Images and video available upon request.
About Burning Man
The annual art event known as Burning Man, which began on a beach in San Francisco in 1986, has grown to attract more than 47,000 participants annually, from every state of the Union and twenty-two countries worldwide. For the last seventeen years, the increasingly popular and influential event has been held in the Black Rock Desert outside of Reno, Nevada. Based on corporate accounting and participant survey data, it is estimated that Burning Man contributes almost $20 million annually to the northern Nevada economy. For more information, visit www.burningman.com.
About MMA Renewable Ventures
A subsidiary of Municipal Mortgage & Equity, LLC "MuniMae," (NYSE: MMA), MMA Renewable Ventures finances, owns and operates renewable energy and energy efficiency assets in the United States. The Company provides leases, Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs) and other customized financial solutions to help its customers manage energy costs. MMA Renewable Ventures is dedicated to delivering competitively priced, clean energy and energy savings to customers, strong partnership options for project developers, and exceptional opportunities for institutional investment in the clean energy sector. For more information about MMA Renewable Ventures, visit www.mmarenewableventures.com.
About Sierra Pacific Power
Headquartered in Reno, Nevada, Sierra Pacific Power Company is the principal utility for most of northern Nevada and the Lake Tahoe area of California. It is a wholly owned subsidiary of Sierra Pacific Resources (NYSE: SRP), which also is the holding company for Nevada Power Company, the electric utility for southern Nevada. Sierra Pacific Power also distributes natural gas in the Reno-Sparks area of northern Nevada. For more information, visit www.sierrapacific.com.
About Black Rock Solar
Black Rock Solar is a non-profit project of the Burning Man community, focused on addressing climate change and speeding the adoption curve of renewable energy. By installing renewable energy at low or no cost, Black Rock Solar puts much needed funds in the hands of communities typically not served by the renewable energy industry, who then get to decide how to best meet their own needs. Along the way, Black Rock Solar creates educational opportunities for volunteers and beneficiaries, and sponsor training to broaden the solar power industry. Future projects will also include installation art that explore these themes. For more information visit www.blackrocksolar.org.