The city of Johnstown, Pennsylvania, located 60 miles east of Pittsburgh, earned a reputation during the Industrial Revolution as a leader in steel production and rail manufacturing. The historic coal mining town is now forging a new path as a pioneer in clean energy. The Greater Johnstown Career & Technology Center (GJCTC), a regional hub for workforce development, now proudly claims the title of the first school in Western Pennsylvania to offset 100% of its electricity consumption with solar power.
Over the past 18 years, John Augustine, Director of GJCTC, played an instrumental role in propelling the school into a vibrant job training center that prepares over 600 high school and adult students each year for new careers. Under Augustine’s leadership, enrollment at the school doubled. With a larger student population, he had to look for ways to reduce the operational costs of the aging buildings and create a more comfortable learning environment for students. Augustine found a solution by generating the power the school needs onsite and by making significant building efficiency upgrades.
Greater Johnstown Career & Technology Center
600 students, Serves seven school districts in the area
- Solar Installation
1.2 MW ground-mounted array with 1,980 photovoltaic panels
- Energy Offset
100% of the school’s annual electricity use
- Solar Financing
Power purchase agreement (PPA) with Duquesne Power and Light
- Energy Efficiency Financing
Guaranteed energy savings agreement (GESA) with The Efficiency Network (TEN)
- Energy Cost Savings
$19 million over 25 years
In October 2023, the school flipped the switch on the 2,000-panel ground solar array. The school anticipates saving $19 million on energy expenses over the next 25 years that can be redirected toward further enriching educational programs and improving the school’s facilities. Integrating solar technology on campus has also sparked the idea to expand the job training programs offered at GJCTC to include clean energy careers.
“We’re thrilled to be the first Career and Technology Center [in Pennsylvania] to take control of our power through solar technology without burdening our taxpayers. Over time, the solar field will pay for itself, and the school will recoup all the money they put in through energy savings.” – John Augustine, Director of Greater Johnstown Career Technology Center
Achieving 100% onsite solar power required making significant improvements to inefficient buildings that were frozen in time since the 1970s. Before installing the solar array, Augustine moved forward with facility improvements that would both save energy and improve the learning environment. With a Guaranteed Energy Savings Agreement (GESA) through a partnership with The Efficiency Network (TEN) the school is able to pay for capital expenses over time with the energy savings. The school moved forward with the $17 million renovation that included the installation of over 3,000 efficient lighting fixtures, state-of-the-art air conditioning units, instantaneous hot water heaters, updated building automation system, and building envelope enhancements. As the region’s vocational technical school, GJCTC also made it a priority to ensure that the project utilized local workers and supported the local economy.
GJCTC is blazing a trail in Western Pennsylvania for using local, clean energy resources to achieve energy independence and support the local economy. Other school districts are already looking at GJCTC as a shining example of what is possible.