Woodside Priory Case Study

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Key Facts

Location Portola Valley, CA
System Size 131.5 kW DC
Installed November 2008
Estimated CO2 Reduction 6,260,676 lbs
Monthly Bill Reduction $3,020
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"The solar systems have inspired our students to learn more about some of the greatest environmental challenges of our time. Plus, the solar system is cutting our electricity bills in half. Solar has been a great decision for us on a number of different levels, and more schools should consider doing it."
Tim Molak, Head of School
Woodside Priory
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Solar-Powered Monastery Highlights Bay Area's Largest Photovoltaic Installation at a Private High School

A Prior Commitment to Green

Woodside Priory's stated mission is "to assist students of promise in becoming lifelong learners who will productively serve a world in need of their gifts." Priory students Chase Haegele and Mike Mellenthin got a head start that mission in 2006, when they researched and proposed a plan to install solar power on the Bay Area private school's campus. Heeding the Rule of St. Benedict's guidance to protect resources with care and consideration for world, the Priory's leadership decided to move forward with the project, and selected SolarCity to design and install the multi-building solar systems. "Tending to environmental issues is the natural nexus between faith and reason, and between humans and creation—a position we prize highly at the Priory," says Tim Molak, Woodside Priory's Head of School.

A Shining Example

Solar panels now span the Priory's monastery, dorm and classroom buildings, in what is the largest solar installation by any private high school in the Bay Area. SolarCity also installed its SolarGuard monitoring system, which turn the solar arrays into a teaching tool, allowing students and faculty the ability to monitor the system's production and environmental impacts, such as carbon offset and pollution reduction. Woodside Priory and SolarCity created a public link to the solar systems' production on the school's website.

"The solar systems have inspired our students to learn more about some of the greatest environmental challenges of our time, and they are cutting our electricity bills in half," says Molak. "Solar has been a great decision for us on a number of different levels, and more schools should consider doing it."

By the Numbers

SolarCity estimates the solar electricity produced will offset 45 percent of the annual electricity bills for those facilities, representing a monthly savings of $3,020. Woodside Priory's solar systems are expected to offset 6,260,676 pounds of carbon dioxide over 30 years, which is equivalent to the amount of carbon dioxide emitted by driving a car 8,067,882 miles or the amount absorbed by 13.5 acres of trees over their lifetime. Brother Edward, a monk who has been at the Priory for 21 years, said the solar panels provide an important lesson about the "obligation to preserve the earth for the next generation."