The school opened its doors in the fall of 2014 with students attending class while the solar-energy solution was being installed on nearly the entire roof surface. Although the building was funded by bond money, the solar-panel system was paid for by a school district special budget item of $760,000 and a grant from Rocky Mountain Power. Students have attended school while the solar array has been installed, witnessing first hand not only the unique energy savings already in place due to the design of the structure, but the construction of the solar panels.

TRA's Ballasted Solar Mounting System for solar-energy systems, installed by Intermountain Wind and Solar, was specifically designed for the project and consists of more than 16,000 parts consisting of tiny nuts and screws to 10-foot long rails. The panels were attached to the rails, mounted on a flat EPDM roof and angled 5-10 degrees to capture as much southern sunlight as possible, using ballasts as part of the anchoring system. In addition, the attachment from TRA is designed to withstand a 120 mph wind speed and snow load of 34 pounds per square foot. The solar arrays cover most of the roofing space and support 1192 panels that should create approximately 330 KW of electricity. That amount of energy is expected to generate all of the needed electricity for the building.

Jake Owsley of TRA Snow and Sun first learned of the project in June 2014 and met several times with Intermountain Wind and Solar to design the system. Owsley said, “This is one of the biggest ballast systems we’ve done on a public building in the state. We hope to provide mounting and rail systems for other schools that seek to harness the power of the sun for their energy needs.”

TRA provides solar mounting systems to Intermountain Wind and Solar for many of its projects and found it gratifying to be part of a project with contractors that focus on quality. Cris Hogan of Hogan & Associates, the general contractor for Odyssey Elementary, stated, “Construction quality makes a huge difference in the ultimate performance of a building.”

The architectural firm, VCBO Architecture, was presented the Project of the Year award for innovative sustainability at the Excellence in Construction (EIC) Awards banquet March 25 for its energy-saving design. The school is expected to achieve net-zero energy efficiency and will eventually receive LEED-Gold certification, which requires at least 60 credits accrued in five green-design categories: sustainable sites, water efficiency, energy and atmosphere, materials and resources, and indoor environmental quality. It also features many windows for natural lighting, LED lights, a ground source heat pump and sunshades on some windows that also capture sunlight.

For more information, visit solar-mounting/.