Green Schools

CA District Deploying Solar at 8 Sites

Orange Unified School District has begun construction on its first solar project. The installation will include a combination of ground-mounted and shade canopies at eight district sites, generating a projected 3.6 million kilowatts of renewable electricity during the first year of operation. The school system, which has 28,000 students, is working with Ameresco on the project.

The district said the use of solar would reduce carbon emissions by 2,512 metric tons, the annual equivalent of taking 533 cars off the road for a year.

"Transitioning to renewable energy sources such as solar is a cornerstone of this district’s long-term sustainability plan," said OUSD Energy Manager, Andrew Durrett, in a statement.

Under the terms of the agreement, Ameresco will pay all costs, including the design, construction, operation, and ongoing maintenance of the solar panels. Under these kinds of deals, often, the solar project is installed under a long-term "net metering" structure. The district will purchase solar power generated through the installation from Ameresco and sell it to the local utility; in return the district will receive credits that are applied to its utility bills. Because electricity is worth more when it is used to offset a retail bill than when it is sold into the commodity wholesale market, the approach is projected to provide greater savings than having the district buy the electricity from Ameresco and use it directly in its buildings.

"In today’s dollars, the anticipated savings in utility costs to be realized by this agreement is projected at $5.3 million, which has been confirmed by an independent third-party energy specialist," said Assistant Superintendent of Business Services, David Rivera. Money generated through solar savings will be folded into the district's reserves.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a former senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning.