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Corvallis High School may soon get a new rooftop solar array thanks in part to fundraising efforts by the school’s Green Club.

But there will be a lot of credit to go around if club members are able to raise the last of the nearly $256,000 cost required to install the array.

Julie Williams, a Corvallis High School physical education and health teacher who advises the club, said the project is being financed by the Oregon Clean Power Cooperative, which allows people to invest in solar projects with dividends paid out from the sale of power from the array.

Benton Electric Inc. would install and own the panels and gets tax credits from the bargain. Corvallis High, for its part, gets a guarantee it can buy power at below-market rates, for a savings of about $21,000 over its first 10 years. Then the school gets the option to buy the depreciated panels in 10 years. Williams said the cost of that should be less than $10,000, allowing the school to save as much as $300,000 in electricity costs over the remaining 15 years of the panels’ life.

To make the array happen, Williams said the cooperative needs about another $7,000 in investment from the public. Williams said the project also needs $15,000 in donations to proceed, and students in the Green Club have already raised about half that.

Williams said the club has about a dozen active members who have raised $7,500 through working concessions at Oregon State University sporting events and raking leaves. That is in addition to the work the students do operating the school’s on-site composting program and running a reusable utensil program they lobbied the school to switch to this year.

Their next big effort is a celebration of Earth Day at 1 p.m. on April 22, which will have guest speakers and around 60 vendors. Though tickets to the event are free at https://bit.ly/2pObwBG, the students will ask for donations at the event.

Williams said the public can also donate to making the array happen through the Corvallis Public Schools Foundation, by earmarking donated funds for the solar project. The foundation can be reached at cpsfoundation.org and 541-757-5857.

Williams said the project can’t start until it’s fully funded, but it can be completed within a couple weeks after that benchmark is reached. Williams said she hopes the project can be completed before school ends in June.

“I know the seniors would love to see it,” she said.

The high school now has a 2.1-kilowatt array, which Williams said was built in 2007. Discussions of building a larger array have been going on since then, she said, but have often been hindered by fluctuations in how solar projects get funded. She said while local solar companies Sunwize and Abundant Solar weren’t involved in the final iteration of the project, both have spent many hours working with students on various projects that never got off the ground.

Williams said other schools in the district have roofs that are ideal for installing solar panels, and her hope is that the project at Corvallis can be replicated elsewhere.

“We want this to not be the one and only project,” she said.

Visit http://oregoncleanpower.coop for more information about investing in solar projects in Oregon.

Anthony Rimel covers education and can be reached at anthony.rimel@lee.net, 541-758-9526, or via Twitter @anthonyrimel.

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