The Fresno Bee
Monday, Jan. 21, 2013 | 10:23 AM
Read more here: http://www.fresnobee.com/2013/01/20/3141169/clovis-unified-looks-to-sun-for.html#storylink=cpy
California school districts -- beset by state funding cuts -- are looking for any way under the sun to slash costs.
Unified School District figures its districtwide solar projects will
lower its $7 million annual electric bills by $2.3 million, freeing up
money for instructional programs.
When finished, the solar
projects will generate 5.86 megawatts of electricity -- one megawatt can
serve up to 1,000 homes with electricity.
By comparison, the solar panels covering parking spaces at Fresno State produce 1.1 megawatts.
Solar panels will supply an estimated 83% of power at sites
where panels are being added. Power bills are paid from the district's
$280 million general fund, which also pays for school staffing. The $2.3
million annual savings is about 1% of the district's general fund.
Clovis schools electricity generation project will be one of the
state's largest among school districts. Los Angeles and San Diego
unified school districts and the high desert's Antelope Valley Union
High School District are building more electricity generation capacity
Fresno Unified has solar panels at Roosevelt High
School and also plans to install some at Edison High. Fresno High will
have solar panel capability when modernization gets under way, district
spokeswoman Susan Bedi said.
Solar projects make more financial
sense compared with 10 or 20 years ago, said Deborah Moore, executive
director of the Berkeley-based Green Schools Initiative.
She said San Jose and Santa Cruz school districts are building smaller projects than Clovis.
"Santa Cruz school board members said they would be wasting taxpayer dollars if they didn't build solar projects," she said.
are under way at five Clovis elementary schools -- Clovis, Fugman,
Mountain View, Nelson and Riverview -- and another 14 schools will have
solar panels atop covered parking or outdoor shade structures by the
summer of 2014. Two district office buildings also will add solar
The first panels will switch on in April, district officials said.
Unified is funding solar with $25 million from Measure A, the
district's $298 million bond measure approved by voters last year. As
part of its investment, the district is getting $4.2 million in rebates
from Pacific Gas & Electric Co.
In recent years, the district
has used an ongoing energy-efficiency program to keep power bills from
rising, district spokeswoman Kelly Avants said.
Those measures --
including more energy-efficient light bulbs and windows -- have kept
bills down even with the opening of Clovis North Educational Center and
new elementary schools, she said.
The sites getting solar projects
were chosen because they offered the district the most financial
savings, said Don Ulrich, assistant superintendent for facilities
Each electricity meter was audited, and those buildings
with the highest cost per kilowatt hour were targeted for solar
projects, he said.
Solar panels will have at least a 25-year life
span, he said. Factoring in expected equipment replacement, the project
will pay for itself in 111/2 years, Ulrich said.
The panels will
generate electricity year-round, even when schools are not in session,
and augment the state's energy supplies. That's particularly important
in the summer when demand soars.
But even with all the benefits, the projects have some logistical quirks.
and parents won't be able to use the parking lots during construction,
and scheduling workers around school hours is tricky, said Don Hartman,
project manager for general contractor Cupertino Electric.
working around student drop-offs and pick-ups and other scheduling
issues," Hartman said. "There is an intense level of coordination
required to ensure that we're maintaining safety and working effectively
in such an active environment."