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Photovoltaic Roof Mounted Array at Washington Middle School

Case Study by Aaron Rakoz, Tyler Howard, Ellen Zito and Elizabeth Sauer
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Photovoltaic Roof Mounted Array at Washington Middle School
Renewables - Solar
Photovoltaic Array
Tom Hill, Code Official, Planning Dept
Olympia School District
Mahlum Architects
Porter Brothers Construction


Washington Middle School installed a 1.1 KW solar photovoltaic array on the roof of the library. The permit for the panels took over four months to be approved. The panels were installed as part of the Washington State Senate Bill 5509. The panels offset energy costs throughout the school.

Permitting Process

Olympia School District filed for an electrical permit for Washington Middle School’s Solar PV array. The permit took a little over four months to be approved.

Project Description

Washington Middle School, in designing their new building, wanted from the start to reduce their demand on the traditional power grid, as well as reduce any externalities that come with its use. To do so, Olympia School District and WMS planned to incorporate a 10 KW solar photovoltaic array on the roof of their new library. The cost of this solar photovoltaic system was initially supposed to be subsidized by the Bonneville Environmental Foundation (BEF).

Unfortunately, by the time WMS requested funding, BEF had already allocated the majority of its funding to other schools for their solar projects. Since they couldn’t muster the funds to install the desired 10 KW array, WMS and OSD decided to make WMS “solar ready” instead. Now, the library roof is structurally ready to support the weight of a 10+ KW solar array, and the school has all of the necessary electrical wiring ready to go whenever they decide to install solar photovoltaics. So now, whenever Washington Middle School can afford more solar panels, the roof and the school’s electrical system are ready to handle them.

Design / Build Process

Washington Middle School was a pioneering project for green building in Washington State. It was the first public school built after Senate Bill 5509 was signed into law by Governor Christine Gregoire in 2005. The law states that any publicly funded building over 5,000 square feet must be built in accordance with current green building practices and meet LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) standards.

Cost / Benefit

After their first year of occupancy, a 1.1 KW solar PV array was installed on the library roof, funded by PSE and BEF in the “Solar 4R Schools” program. In the second and third years of the schools occupancy, it has generated 2366 KWH total, saving the school about $53 a year. The cost of the 1.1 KW system (and possibly all the “solar ready” work) was approximately $20,000.

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