Photovoltaic production continues to rise

The new photovoltaic system completed by the Pershing County School District pushes the amount of electricity generated from solar panels in northern Nevada well over the 3.7-megawatt mark.

That's enough power to meet the needs of about 1,500 homes in the region.

The school district in Lovelock last week celebrated installation of a 70-kilowatt photovoltaic system, one of the largest facilities in northern Nevada to produce electricity from sunlight.

Banks of solar panels were installed on an elementary school and at the district's bus maintenance yard. The system is projected to save more than $18,000 in electricity costs, and the school district received a $356,000 rebate from NV Energy, which provides incentives for renewable energy installations.

The utility pays $2.10 a watt to homeowners and small businesses that install photovoltaic systems, and $4.20 per watt on installations at schools and public buildings.

Since 2004, 1,527 kilowatts of photovoltaic solar cells has been installed in northern Nevada with financial assistance through NV energy's SolarGenerations program, said a spokesman for the utility. That's roughly half of the photovoltaic installations statewide that have been assisted by the program.

In addition, Barrick Gold Corp. generates about one megawatt of power from a large photovoltaic installation near Tracy, along Interstate 80 east of Sparks, and NV Energy itself generates 150 kilowatts from photovoltaic installations at its facilities in Reno.

And small photovoltaic installations many of them on homes in the area probably generate close to another megawatt of electricity. NV Energy says 348 small photovoltaic systems, most of them generating three to five kilowatts each, are tied into its grid.

The photovoltaic production pales, however, in comparison with traditional power plants. NV Energy's Tracy Generating Station east of Sparks can produce 1,041 megawatts more than 335 times the total output of all of the region's photovoltaic installations.

In the just-completed Lovelock project, Black Rock Solar, a nonprofit spinoff of the Burning Man project, installed the panels at no charge to the school district. The balance of the cost was paid by donations from more than 300 people worldwide who number themselves as part of the Burning Man community.


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