During the bright summer months, the Marana Unified School District has been installing solar panels and structures at eight schools, all at no cost to the district.

Through renewable energy credits offered through Tucson Electric Power, the investment group Kennedy Partners organized the project and found investors willing to invest in the solar project for the district.

The solar panels are expected to generate 75 to 80 percent of each of the school’s electrical needs, allowing for money to be used elsewhere within the district’s maintenance and operations’ budget (M&O). 

The M&O budget covers everything from employees and utilities to per pupil costs.

Originally, the project was going to install solar panels at six schools, but due to energy-saving measures taken by the district at its schools, the project expanded to eight schools.

“We’ve been very conscious over the last several years to reduce our energy costs,” said Tamara Crawley, the director of public relations for the district. “Part of our ongoing commitment to our community is to make sure that we are good stewards with our resources and constantly looking at ways to reduce costs. Solar provides an excellent opportunity for the district to do just that.”

Some of the measures the district has taken in the past include a mass-notification system that sends information via email so less paper is needed in notifying parents and families. 

Russell Federico, who is the executive director of operational support for the district, said the district has utilized efficient heating and cooling equipment and has installed light sensors in all buildings so that all lights turn off when there is no movement in a room.

“We have done some upgrades like that, again to save on our utility costs, and be more efficient,” Federico said. “One of the benefits is that we had become so efficient we were able to spread the solar [project] from six sites to eight sites.”

The panels are being installed over school parking lots and some of the schools’ playground on the following campuses: Estes, Ironwood, Quail Run, Coyote Trail, Twin Peaks, Butterfield elementary schools, Marana Middle School, and MCAT High School.

The construction is expected to be completed in September at five locations and in August at Estes Elementary, Marana Middle and MCAT schools.

“The district is committed to energy efficiencies. We are continuing to explore other solar opportunities for our remaining schools. This is an ongoing commitment and ongoing process to look at continuing to at solar throughout the district.”

The district is also looking at areas for efficiency along with the possibility of using alternative fuel for its transportation and buses.

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