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Richmond Architectural Firm Completes Berkeley District's First Solar School

On August 26, 2008, the day before school started, Richmond architecture-engineering firm Interactive Resources certified as substantially complete the 104 kW solar photovoltaic system on the roof of Berkeley Unified School District’s Washington School The system will reduce greenhouse gases by 721 tons per year, equivalent of taking 119 cars off the road.

Richmond City Councilman, Tom Butt, who is president of Interactive Resources, served as architect of record for the Washington School project. Structural engineering was provided by Paul Westermann of Interactive Resources. Blue Oak Energy was the electrical engineer, and Eshone Electric Co., was the contractor. Parsons served as construction manager for the Berkeley Unified School District.

Click here for other large solar photovoltaic projects for which Interactive Resources provided architecture or engineering services.

Washington Elementary Goes Solar

By Rio Bauce

Thursday August 14, 2008

Berkeley Daily Planet

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.”


Work Begins on Washington School Solar Panels

By Riya Bhattacharjee

Thursday July 24, 2008

Washington Elementary is set to become the first school in the Berkeley Unified School District to go solar, once construction of photovoltaic cells on its roof is completed in August.

Work to replace the school’s roof began at the end of June, district officials said, and solar panels are expected to go up in the next couple of weeks.

After deliberating on the project for several months, the Berkeley Board of Education voted unanimously in June 2007 to allow the district to enter into a legal agreement with Berkeley-based nonprofit Kyoto USA to carry out the design work for the proposed project.

Estimated to cost $1.2 million, the HELiOS (Helios Energy Lights Our Schools) project is expected to cover 100 percent of the main building’s electricity needs and is being funded by grants from the Office of Public School Construction, PG&E and district money.

Lew Jones, the district’s director of facilities, told the Planet that Eshone—the contractors hired to carry out the work—were in the process of replacing the roof with a new one.

“The roof has to be replaced to put in structural support,” Jones said. “We expect the solar panels to go up by the third week of August. It’s a pilot project, and we are interested to see how it works so that we can try it out in the other schools as well. We don’t know if we’ll be able to use the panels right when school starts, but that’s our goal.”

Tom Kelly of Kyoto USA, who spearheaded the proposal along with his wife Jane Kelly, said he was happy to see the project get underway.

“The Washington community is very excited about it,” he said. “The installation is likely to lead to educational opportunities for the kids. The cost of electricity from utilities is skyrocketing, so this investment in solar is likely to pay off very quickly. And it’s helping to reduce the amount of pollution and global warming gases—created by the burning of fossil fuels to produce the electricity the old-fashioned way.”

Kelly said although the project was approved a year ago, the timeline for its construction was accurate, since getting it designed by an architect, identifying a building contractor and receiving approval from the Division of the State Architect took a considerable amount of time.

“The first two matters required that an RFP be issued by the district, seeking qualified applicants,” he said.

“It was also assumed that the construction would have to occur during a summertime when the school was not as heavily used.”

The bids for the photovoltaic system and the new roof, Kelly said, came in at $900,000.

Kelly said Kyoto USA was already looking at its next school.

“We’d very much like to do the high school,” he said. “It has 3,000 students and gives us an opportunity to move this discussion to a much larger segment of our community. It certainly presents some challenges—a much bigger project, for one—but could also be a major catalyst in moving toward the solarization of all our public schools. It also gives us a chance to address energy conservation in the school and work on changing the type of individual and institutional behaviors that have grown up around cheap, and often polluting, energy.”

To help finance the project, the organization is building a framework for a “community offset fund” so that donors will be able to offset their greenhouse gas emissions by making a tax-deductible contribution to a local project like HELiOs.

The project will be based out of the Ecology Center.