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February 13, 2007 > Solar powered high school

Solar powered high school

A high school that was built in only 120 days last year is about to become what Pacific Gas and Electric Company says is the first primarily solar-powered school in Alameda County.

Students "flicked the switch" Tuesday, February 6, to start the flow of sun-produced energy at Conley-Caraballo High, part of the New Haven Unified School District.
The District has installed 600 solar panels on the roofs of Conley-Caraballo, part of a system that will meet approximately 80 percent of the school's energy needs. Although other Alameda County schools have installed solar elements, PG&E says Conley-Caraballo is the first where solar system is meeting such a high percentage of the energy needs.

The project, designed and installed by 3rd Rock Systems & Technologies of Burlingame, costs about $840,000, said Enrique Palacios, Executive Director of Operations for New Haven Unified. With grants and rebate - including a $263,087 solar rebate from PG&E - the cost to the District will be about $440,000. The system will produce about $40,000 worth of energy per year, Palacios said, meaning the District will recoup its costs in 10-12 years. The system has a life expectancy of approximately 25 years.

"Conley-Caraballo is an innovative school in a lot of ways, so it is very appropriate that it be an energy pioneer," New Haven Superintendent Dr. Pat Jaurequi said. New Haven will serve as a model for other school districts in implementing renewable energy alternatives that will reduce dependence on foreign energy resources, protect the environment, improve air quality and reduce energy costs, said Elliot Jaramillo of 3rd Rock Systems (

The system at Conley-Caraballo will double as a teaching tool, with interactive "learning modules" designed to help educate students, teachers and the community about the benefits of renewable energy technologies, Jaramillo said.

Under Principal Judy Silver, the school serves about 250 students 18 classrooms, two science rooms, a child-care room, an administration building and a combination library/media center/teachers lounge. The $11 million facility is being paid with money raised by Measure A, a $120 million facilities bond passed by District voters in 2003, and with state matching funds.

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