Gila Community College has struck a deal to put up solar panels that won’t cost the district a thing — but will hopefully knock $700 a month off its electric bill.
The college will basically follow in the footsteps of the Payson Unified School District, letting a private solar cell company use college land to put up a solar array. The solar company gets the tax breaks and a chance to sell power to Arizona Public Service, while the district gets a break on its utility bill.
Projections suggest that the district will save $440,000 over 10 years on its electrical bills.
The GCC board last week approved the project bid from SunRenu.
The company will now have 45 days to line up financing to put up the array of solar cells in the GCC parking lot.
GCC ended up making its own deal to go solar, instead of teaming up with the Rim Country Educational Alliance, which had originally hoped GCC would help it meet tight deadlines to put together an ambitious deal to provide enough solar power to supply a proposed university campus.
Early plans for a university campus next door to GCC included a solar power generating array, which would also provide a roof and covered parking at the Payson Event Center.
That original plan envisioned a $50 million project, with federal alternative energy incentives reducing the cost to the developers to about $30 million.
However, a frustrating lag in negotiations with ASU made it impossible to commit to the solar energy project prior to the expiration of the federal incentives last December.
For a time, the Alliance tried to salvage the deal by partnering with GCC to put up a solar array, using GCC as the customer and thereby slipping in under the deadline for the federal incentives.
However, additional delays in the negotiations between the Alliance and ASU doomed even that plan to partner with GCC.
So now GCC will have its own solar cells and Alliance will have to cobble together a deal of its own for the proposed 6,000-student university campus, which backers hope will generate more power than it uses through solar and geothermal systems.