Saving Big with "Solar Master Plans"
As it gets chillier and darker, who couldn't use a little more solar power? On November 14th KyotoUSA unveiled Solar Master Plans -- comprehensive assessment and planning tools to make schools energy independent -- for the Oakland, Berkeley, and West Contra Costa Unified School Districts. These tools can be adapted and used by any district.
Big Savings and Valuable Lessons
The energy savings eventually realized will free up funds to hire teachers, maintain small class sizes and improve the educational environment in myriad ways. And in the process, students will learn valuable lessons about solar power and renewable energy.
According to Tom Kelly of KyotoUSA, school districts spend a substantial amount of money on energy each year, and the costs are growing: "School districts now understand that they can achieve big savings through conservation and efficiency. They are also beginning to see that renewable energy systems play an important role in reducing costs, providing educational opportunities for their students, and contributing to the effort to fight climate change. Installing renewable energy systems is no longer out of reach. The Solar Master Plans show them how to get there.”
Deborah Moore, Executive Director of Green Schools Initiative, who also attended the event, adds, "These Solar Master Plans offer a great template or 'greenprint' that many other districts can use to help them analyze and plan for incorporating and financing solar into their own Master Plans for capital projects. We think this will help make districts get going on solar and savings that much faster!"
A Collaborative Effort
Kyoto USA has been working with the Department of Energy and its National Renewable Energy Lab (NREL) to develop the Solar Master Plans, which will in time be offered for every school district in Alameda, Contra Costa, and Solano counties. Since 2004, KyotoUSA, an all-volunteer non-profit organization based in Berkeley, has been leading the charge to reduce local greenhouse gas emissions. Already, KyotoUSA has worked with the Berkeley Unified School District to install solar panels on two Berkeley elementary schools, and three additional installations are currently in progress.
The Solar Master Plan effort got off the ground in April 2009 when the US Department of Energy awarded a "Solar America Showcase" grant for the development of the plans for the Oakland, Berkeley, and West Contra Costa school districts. These grants support companies and local governments that are “highly committed” to adopting solar technology, and to accelerate the NREL's installation of photovoltaic (PV) panels throughout the nation.
The effort required the cooperation of many different individuals and entities, and is a testament to what can be accomplished with focused collaboration. Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner and California State Senator Loni Hancock both attended the press conference and praised the project and its benefits to schools, teachers, students, and the environment.
Making a Better World for Children
Bill Huyett, Superintendent of Berkeley schools pointed out the value of these projects for children: "We're making a better world for children by cutting greenhouse gases. There's a financial gain -- Berkeley will gain about $500,000 every year from energy savings. This project is a big job creator. But the greatest value for children in our institution is educational," and the Solar Master Plans provide opportunities for valuable lessons in alternative energy and technology.
You can view Berkeley Unified's Solar Master Plan on the KyotoUSA/Helios Project website. For additional information on Solar Master Plans, contact Tom Kelly of KyotoUSA at (510) 684-6484 or firstname.lastname@example.org.