Ahwatukee Foothills Family YMCA goes solar

The solar panel system at the Ahwatukee Foothills Family YMCA started up this week. The system will offset 19 percent of the center�s energy output.

Travis Roemdhild/AFN

The Ahwatukee Foothills Family YMCA just got a little greener.

The local activity center fired up a solar panel system this week that will offset 19 percent of the monthly energy costs. The system, comprised of 420 solar panels, was finalized this past week after a 16-day construction period.

Three other YMCAs around the Phoenix-metro area were outfitted with similar systems, all the result of a partnership between the YMCA, Scout Solar, which designs and installs the solar panel systems, and Centrosolar America, the Scottsdale-based company that builds the panels. The YMCAs paid no upfront costs to have them installed.

"There were no out-of-pocket costs for the Valley of the Sun YMCA for this installation," said Scout Solar Project Administrator, Michael Norris. "They will make a set monthly lease payment on the system, an amount far less than what their savings on electricity will be. And they are protected from future spikes in energy prices with this arrangement."

The other branches include the Tempe YMCA that has a 96.6 kilowatt hours (kWh) shade canopy solar system which will offset 21 percent of energy costs, the Chris-Town YMCA, which has a 98.7 kWh system to offset 24 percent of energy costs, and the Scottsdale/Paradise Valley branch has a system to offset 12.5 percent of energy costs. If you visit the Ahwatukee Foothills Family YMCA today, you can't miss the 420 panels, which will produce 98.7 kWh, that now sit atop the shade canopy in the parking lot. All projects will be completed by March of next year.

"The goal was to give each branch some sort of renewable energy," Dave Spots, owner of Scout Solar, said.

Scout Solar and the YMCAs worked closely together to determine which branches would benefit the most from a solar panel system. From here on out, Scout Solar will monitor each system remotely to ensure that they are all running efficiently. Spots said that the panels have a 25-year warranty and the inverters have a 10-year warranty.

"It's basically a maintenance-free operation for (the YMCA) for the next 10 years," he said.

The complete project was designed to take full advantage of the rebates and credits that are available for solar panel system owners. Currently, there is a federal grant that entities can apply for that will cover 30 percent of the total cost of the system. Arizona offers, for nonresidential systems, a 10 percent tax credit for each building.

But Spots said that time is of the essence because, as he put it, "there is only so much money in the pot."

The Arizona program, which runs through the end of 2018, can only authorize $1 million in tax credits for nonresidential systems per year. The federally funded tax credit was part of the $700 billion "Wall Street bailout," or the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008.

When all four systems are completed, they will produce more than 612,000 kWh each year, which is equivalent to 48 Arizona homes per year.

To find out more about Centrosolar, visit their website, www.centrosolaramerica.com, or email Scout Solar at info@scoutsolar.com.

• Contact writer: (480) 898-4903 or troemhild@ahwatukee.com

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