Olympia College will receive a community solar panel in 2023

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Workers install solar panels on the roof of Merritt Manor, an affordable housing complex on Martin Way in Olympia.

Courtesy of Olympia Community Solar

A middle school in Olympia will receive a community solar panel on its roof next summer thanks to a new partnership.

The solar panel will be at Thurgood Marshall Middle School west of Olympia, according to a news release. Olympia Community Solar, a local non-profit organization, is partnering with the Olympia School District on the project.

When completed, the school will have 306 solar panels on its roof capable of producing 149,000 kilowatt hours of energy annually, according to the statement. This should reduce the school’s energy costs and support regional climate mitigation efforts.

Olympia Community Solar has developed and operated similar projects at the Olympia Farmers Market and the Hands On Children’s Museum. Mason Rolph, president of the nonprofit organization, said in the statement that his team was honored to partner with the school district this time.

“Thurgood Marshall Community Solar provides an accessible opportunity for our community to participate in the clean energy economy, contribute to climate action, and support local education,” Rolph said.

In addition to reducing costs, the school district hopes the project will help students understand the merits of renewable energy solutions, according to Olympia School District Superintendent Patrick Murphy.

“This project will create renewable energy learning opportunities for students and aligns with OSD Student Outcome #6,” Murphy said in the press release.

Outcome 6 calls on students to be critical thinkers who contribute to and collaborate with the local, global, and natural world. Murphy said the district expects students to advocate for and contribute to projects that use natural resources in an “efficient and sustainable manner.”

Under the community solar panel model, a group of people owns and benefits from the project. This means that community members can provide seed capital by purchasing or donating solar units as well as subscriptions to the project’s power generation.

Finally, the participants can recover their contribution with interest, but no profit, because the project sells electricity. The school will pay for energy at less than the local utility’s retail rate, according to the project’s website.

Once contributions are collected, the website says the system will be donated to the school district.

For the Marshall Middle School project, the press release indicates that 600 subscriptions will be available. Anyone can participate or donate on the project website.

Puget Sound Solar, a Seattle-based company, will install the solar panel in the summer of 2023, according to the release.

thurgood college solar panel
A rendering of the Thurgood Marshall Community Solar Project. Olympia Community Solar has partnered with the Olympia School District to develop and operate the system, which is expected to be installed in 2023. Courtesy of Olympia Community Solar

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