Frequently Asked Questions

Basic Questions

Idaho Power hopes to increase the visibility and public understanding of renewable energy generation technologies. Just as many adults now recycle because the concept was introduced to them in high school, we hope that today’s students will gain a level of understanding and comfort with solar technology that will help them take on more responsible roles in society in the future.

There are numerous hurdles that must be overcome before solar electricity becomes mainstream. Price is only one of these hurdles and may not be the most challenging. If solar electricity were suddenly to cost the same as other sources of electricity, widespread implementation would still be quite difficult. Installers and consumers still hold many misconceptions about solar power (safety, grid-interconnection, reliability, etc.) even though the technology is safe, well-established and adequately regulated.

Idaho Power seeks to install demonstration solar and data acquisition systems on K-12 schools located within our service area. In exchange, schools are expected to teach a renewable energy curriculum in the school and/or undertake some other form of solar education in the community. Funded projects will offer aggressive education and outreach plans in an attempt to overcome barriers to widespread adoption of photovoltaics.

Idaho Power and BEF seek to identify potential projects that:

  1. Increase the visibility of photovoltaics through:
    • Physical system placement
    • Implementation of curriculum and/or community outreach
    • Appropriate use of real-time, web-based solar data
  2. Grow understanding and application of small, distributed energy generation through education, community outreach and marketing.
  3. Ensure cost-effective installations of small solar projects.
  4. Promote innovation in solar design integration and renewable energy inquiry.

We will provide selected candidates with:

  • Solar photovoltaic equipment and related hardware
  • Data monitoring hardware and web-based access to live solar data
  • Installation of solar and data monitoring equipment
  • Subject matter curriculum and training for selected teachers at the project site

Candidates selected for funding will:

  • Own and maintain the solar system
  • Provide access to a network in order to transfer solar data
  • Offer and implement an education and/or public outreach strategy

The contractor hired to install the system obtains all required state and local permits and will provide these permits to the school upon completion of the installation. All equipment has undergone extensive testing, meets UL listing requirements and electrical code, and is covered under manufacturers’ warranties.

Installation and System Operation

Maintenance can be done by any electrician. However, it is important to remember that these systems have no moving parts. Therefore, they generally require no “maintenance”, as we typically use the term. Once a year or so, if it does not rain for a long period of time, you may want to spray the modules down to remove accumulated dust. The panels are unlikely to get dirtier than a window would. The data monitoring system will automatically alert us if the system is not performing well, so we will know if it needs to be cleaned.

Owning a photovoltaic (PV) system should be like owning any other piece of District equipment. We simply request that you use the gift as a way to enhance your students’ educational experience. Your school has a unique opportunity to teach your students about an increasingly important subject (energy) with some exceptional learning tools. With a new PV system, your school will be one of a very few schools in the country with the ability to offer such a hands-on learning experience.

The contractor hired to install the system obtains all required state and local permits and will provide these permits to the school upon completion of the installation. All equipment has undergone extensive testing, meets UL listing requirements and electrical code, and is covered under manufacturers’ warranties.

We strive to fund school projects fully, so that there are no cash contributions required of the schools. The schools will, in fact, save money on their electrical bills by generating electricity with the PV system. There will be some minor non-monetary costs associated with owning the system. For example, we may encourage some students, faculty, and District personnel to participate in an opening celebration event, to be designed by Idaho Power and BEF and approved by the school and the District. There are also other very specific educational commitments (“Deliverables”) listed in the Contract in Exhibit A. These Deliverables are proposed by the school’s teacher “champion” and should not be overly burdensome to the teacher or the schools. In fact, these Deliverables can fit directly into the normal teaching activities of the champion, taking no more time, but providing the additional benefit of a unique, hands-on experience for students and teachers alike.

Idaho Power and BEF will be happy to discuss changing or eliminating any Deliverable that the District deems overly burdensome.

Occasionally, a PV installation may be bolted directly into a roof. Because Idaho Power seeks to avoid any potential leaks or problems, we typically do not use such methods. We hope to install an “awning-style” system, where the racking is attached to the beam just above the windows. This type of installation does not require any roof penetration at all, and will not increase maintenance to any other parts of the building. We have photos of this type of installation from previous projects, should you want to see them, and our contractor can provide more technical information to the District’s facilities’ personnel upon request. In any event, Idaho Power will discuss the details of the installation with the District prior to actual installation.

In reality, the PV system will sit there, produce electricity, and serve as a learning tool for the students. After some initial excitement around the opening event, there should not be any day-to-day distractions created by the system.

None that we have yet encountered. There are hundreds of thousands of such systems functioning throughout the world and we have heard of no problems whatsoever.

Idaho Power and BEF have put together a presentation to introduce the site champion (and other interested faculty and staff) to solar power in general and your system in particular. Additionally, we have developed several curriculum modules that teachers can incorporate in classes as they please. Once the system is installed, we will contact those people who are interested in attending this class to determine a date that works for all parties. The session lasts 3 to 4 hours.

No. The champions, by definition, are enthusiastic and have volunteered for the position. We have heard no reports of teachers requesting additional compensation. Generally, these champions have considered the donation of $15-$20K worth of equipment, labor, and educational materials ample compensation.

Yes. Our curriculum is specifically designed to work with your school’s actual PV production data that will be captured by your data acquisition system. During the training session, we will walk you through all of these tools, and then the district and the site champion can choose which curriculum elements will best work for their students.

Yes. We will pass out curriculum materials at the session but could show you these materials beforehand, as well.

What Ifs

There are not really any requirements for the district to get out of, except for the educational deliverables.

Though we would be disappointed if a school did not complete its Deliverables, there are no real actions that we can take, or would reasonably consider. It is our hope that all schools will be excited to use their new gifts. Because the contract only binds your school to Deliverables of your choosing, and because the deliverables fit well into your educational mission, we see little risk associated with failure to complete the deliverables.

The Deliverables indicate that the School District (as Project Owner) is ultimately responsible for completion of the Deliverables. However, we note that the Project Champion is primarily responsible for taking action on the Deliverables. We find that unless a particular person is charged with a task, nobody ends up doing it. It does not matter to us if the Deliverables are completed by the Project Champion or another teacher or staff member. Those choices are better left up to the District, the school, and the Champion.