Solar power saves jobs

In addition to saving money by reducing the need for electricity in the building, the solar system at Lovelock Elementary School is helping to save jobs.

Black Rock Solar installed a 50 kW system on the 12-year-old metal roof of the school last summer as well as a 20 kW system on the ground. According to Tom Price, Black Rock Solar’s executive director, this was the first time the nonprofit company installed solar panels on a metal roof.

“It was easy,” he says. “We were introduced to the S-5! clamps and we saw a cost savings on installation materials and labor. Literally, the only way it would be easier to install is if it had a magnet and we could just drop it on the roof.” Installing the Schott solar panels on a racking system would have meant an installation cost of $.35 per watt. With the S-5! clamp, it ended up being $.17 per watt.

“It saved so much we were able to add the 20 kW system on the ground,” Price says. “The total system produces a savings of $19,000 a year, which will put two teacher assistants back to work for the next 25 years.”

Lovelock is part of the small Pershing County School District and has about 40 teachers — six were laid off in the summer of 2009.

“A raised metal roof is perfect for these systems, it’s fast and easy,” Price says. “Solar panels need air running under them, they work better and metal roofing provides a perfect convection and with the clamps, you don’t have to worry about leaks.

“For new construction, metal roofing is the way to go. And if you have the option, face the building south to optimize the capturing of that energy.”

Black Rock Solar installed the panels at no cost to the school district, relying on donations collected by the Burning Man community. A dedication was held in September, when the school district received a check for more than $356,000 from Nevada Energy’s SolarGeneration program to help offset installation costs for the photovoltaic panels.

The system provides students with a first-hand educational look at alternative energy. This project was the 10th completed by Black Rock Solar.

“For metal roofers to add solar to their offerings, it’s a natural complement to what they’re doing,” Price says.

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