The 2009 grants raise PSE’s total support for school solar projects to $375,000, with the four new schools joining 12 earlier educational solar power projects in the Puget Sound region that received grants totaling just under $268,000.

The grant to Green River Community College marks the first time a community college has been included in the solar program.

The grants to Liberty and Hazen high schools, both located in King County, will provide an opportunity to compare the efficiency of a tracking solar array, which has the ability to turn and follow the sun and will be installed at Liberty, with a fixed array that will be installed at nearby Hazen, and also with a similar fixed array at Issaquah High School that was also funded by a grant from PSE in 2008. In addition to the utility’s support, funding for the tracking array at Liberty High School was made possible by a $10,000 grant from the Issaquah Schools Foundation.

On Whidbey Island, the grant to Coupeville Middle and High School will also allow comparisons with the power generated by the solar array at South Whidbey High School, which received funding through PSE’s 2008 renewable energy grants.

At 1.5 kW, each solar array will generate enough power, on average, to operate 15 notebook computers for 1,000 hours. In addition to the rooftop-mounted solar panels, the PSE grants support the purchase of inverters to connect renewable energy generators to each school’s electrical system, monitoring software, as well as teaching, training and lesson plans developed by the Bonneville Environmental Foundation as part of its Solar 4R Schools program.

School districts qualifying for the Solar Schools program submitted plans earlier this year detailing their educational goals, how their project will bring renewable energy technologies to new areas of the Puget Sound region and what steps will be taken to increase community awareness of the potential for using renewable energy technologies. PSE expects to offer a new round of grants through a similar RFP process in early 2010.

Since 2004, PSE has funded the installation of systems at Redmond High School, Port Townsend High School, the Bellingham Environmental Learning Center, the Puget Sound Electrical Joint Apprenticeship and Training Committee’s Training Center in Renton, the Issaquah Salmon Hatchery, Western Washington University in Bellingham, the Institute for Environmental Research and Education on Vashon Island, Thomas Jefferson High School, Marshall Middle School, Interlake High School, Sakai Intermediate School and South Whidbey High School.

“Today’s students will be tomorrow’s leaders when it comes to thinking about how to produce and use energy wisely,” said Cal Shirley, vice president of Energy Efficiency Services for PSE. “Our solar grant program brings renewable energy to the classroom, and makes the challenges and solutions we face with energy real and compelling.”

“Today’s students are hungry for real-world experience, to be able to see first-hand how things work,” said Shirley. “The renewable energy grants turn the classroom into a laboratory, enabling students to discover how their energy choices will affect the environment and economy.”