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San Antonio goes solar with state-funded project

By Johnny Hernandez
La Prensa

“This is the spark that the city needs to embrace solar energy,” said San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro, as he announced Thursday that the State Energy Conservation Office has invested more than $3 million for a distributed energy generation system at the Mission Verde Center @ Cooper, UTSA and St. Philip’s College.

Of the $3 million, $430,000 will be granted to the Mission Verde Center located on the campus of Cooper Elementary on the city’s West Side in order to provide 48 kilowatts of solar generation capacity.

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“This is a wonderful opportunity for the City of San Antonio and for District 5,” said City Councilman David Medina. “As councilman of Dist. 5 and with Mission Verde being in the community I represent, I’m proud to say that under the mayor’s leadership and his efforts towards looking for alternative sources of energy I look forward to working with him towards this effort.”

Mayor Julian Castro observes a demonstration of solar panel at the city’s Mission Verde Center @ Cooper. San Antonio received more than $3 million in investments towards solar energy advancements. (Photo, Johnny Hernandez)

Approximately $1.3 million went to UTSA to install 152 kilowatts, while the remaining $2 million was granted to St. Philip’s College to install 400 kilowatts of solar generation capacity.

“This grant represents a tremendous opportunity for St. Philip’s College,” said St. Philip’s College President Adena Williams Loston. “The rooftop installation of solar panels will serve our college as a green laboratory. It will also serve as an essential component of our soon-to-be Center for Excellence in Science, producing energy for the college and enhance our standing as an area leader in workforce education.”

Not only will this investment project reduce the college’s electrical bill by over $100,000 the first year, it will reduce greenhouse emissions by 720,160 pounds per year.

Moreover, it will provide 47 jobs during the planning, construction and implementation phase of the grant.

Most importantly for the college, however, it will stimulate interest in fields of study such as Science, Technology, Engineering and Math.

“Students in the Alternative Energy program will have access to the system to study construction and operation of large solar energy systems.”

The $2 million grant requires St. Philip’s to conduct community outreach and training to educate everyone about the benefits of solar energy. The public will have access to the system through a web-based portal and two kiosks, located at St. Philip’s main cam- pus as well as at the Southwest Campus.

Dr. Mauli Agrawal, dean of the College of Engineering at the University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA), thanked Mayor Castro for his strong leadership and innovative ideas within his first year in office.

“Mr. Mayor, you have been in office for just a short time, but you have already amazed us with your vision and long-term perspective on alternative energy and green jobs,” said Agrawal.

With its $1.3 million, UTSA will install solar panels in two of its buildings with embedded integrated sensors that will record data for student and job training as part of the Institute of Conventional, Alternate and Renewable Energy (I-CARE) at UTSA.

“We intend for this institute to become the focal point for all energy and sustainability research throughout this whole region,” Agrawal said, hoping the institute will also warrant national pride for San Antonio.

Currently, the Alamo City uses about 330 kilowatts of solar generation capacity.

According to Mayor Castro, this investment will double that figure to 930 kilowatts, while producing cleaner energy and a net reduction of 50 metric tons of CO2 emissions per year.

“This is significant for San Antonio because we want our city to be a leader in solar investment and solar generation from a distributed system,” Mayor Castro concluded.

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