Arlington County School Board will sign contract to bring solar to five more schools

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Built in 2015, Discovery Elementary School’s roof is covered in $1.3 million worth of solar panels.

“We actually deliver more back to the grid than we use at the school,” said Cathy Lin, energy manager for Arlington County.

Next week, Tuckahoe Elementary School, Thomas Jefferson Middle School, Kenmore Middle School, and Washington-Lee High School will be officially destined for solar energy. Alice Fleet Elementary School, under construction, will also have solar panels.

“A lot of these roofs don’t have a lot of mechanical equipment on it so it allows us to put a lot of arrays on these roofs,” said Lin.

Computer science teacher Greg Rusk has been working with the solar panels since the school opened. “The original plan was for our school to be a net zero energy school and we ended up putting enough on and using less electricity than we thought that we’re actually a net positive school,” said Rusk.

That means Discovery produces more energy than it uses. The county plans to share energy between schools that don’t have solar panels. Williamsburg Middle School shares its campus with Discovery. “We are hoping that we can share that power, the excess power, with Williamsburg Middle School to reduce its power consumption as well as the cost for power there,” said Lin.

The panels last over two decades. The contractor has agreed to maintain the panels for 20 to 25 years, although Lin and Rusk say little maintenance is necessary. 

The county estimates Discovery saves $100,000 a year on electricity costs. 

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