Alcorn school district unveils solar power system

By Lena Mitchell/NEMS Daily Journal Corinth Bureau

CORINTH – Rows of solar collection panels installed at the Alcorn County Career and Technology Center will generate about 79,000 kilowatt hours of electricity per year.
Those panels not only are the basis of a middle and high school science curriculum that will be used in county schools, but the school district also will generate about $17,000 per year of income by selling that solar power to Alcorn County Electric Power Association.
The public is invited to see the new solar collection system during a ribbon-cutting at 10 a.m. Tuesday at the career and technology center.
“We are really proud of this project,” said Superintendent Stacy Suggs. “In fact, using the curriculum has already started this summer with camps and solar education.”
The solar panels are a no-maintenance source of renewable energy with an endless supply, said Cheryl Aquadro, spokeswoman for Johnson Controls, which installed the 50-kilowatt ground-mounted solar collection system, along with numerous other energy-saving systems throughout the county school district.
Other projects included such measures as districtwide lighting upgrades, an energy management system to control heating and cooling, mechanical system upgrades, switching from propane to natural gas, lowering ceilings and replacing some windows and roofs.
Last year the school board approved a $2.3 million bond sale which, added to $1.1 million of grants the school district received, financed installation of more than $3 million of energy-saving systems.
Based on the school district’s annual expenditures of about $780,000 for electricity, natural gas and propane, Johnson Controls estimated that the districtwide energy savings could amount to $156,000 to $195,000 per year.
The company was awarded a performance contract which guarantees that if, after the recommended energy-saving measures are in place, the school district does not achieve the savings Johnson Controls projected, then Johnson Controls will pay the district that amount of savings out of its own funds.
The solar array is a model project that puts Alcorn County at the forefront of innovation. Alcorn County Schools was awarded a $287,442 grant from the Mississippi Development Authority for the $383,000 project. The only other school district in the state to receive an MDA renewable energy grant was Stone County in south Mississippi, which received $300,000 each for its middle and high schools.