Green Schools

CA District Opts for Solar Carports and Battery Storage

Pleasanton Unified School District in California will be implementing solar carports and a battery storage system in its high school. The project includes the installation of solar panels capable of generating a megawatt of energy and a 660 kilowatt-hour battery energy storage system at Amador Valley High School. The district is working with REC Solar, a subsidiary of Duke Energy Renewables.

"This new solar structure will allow our Amador community to reduce its carbon footprint, provide a long-term source of renewable energy and create covered parking for our students in a new re-oriented lot," the district said in an announcement about the project. The new solar arrays will provide up to 97 percent of the high school's current energy usage. The school community, which has 15,000 students, will also have access to a monitoring tool that will provide data on energy usage and collection.

The initiative is expected to save Pleasanton Unified at least $2.2 million over the 25-year lifetime of the power purchase agreement, according to district officials. The project is being financed by the energy company.

"For many years it has been our goal to educate global citizens while focusing on projects that improve the health and well-being of our students, staff and community," said Superintendent, David Haglund, in a statement. "As cutting emissions is crucial to our global future, our project to install solar generation plus battery storage will benefit our students for decades."

The emphasis on setting up agreements with school districts makes sense for power companies, suggested an analyst covering the renewables market. "Education services is the largest subsegment of commercial and industrial customers today," said Brett Simon, senior storage analyst at Wood Mackenzie Power & Renewables. "School boards and universities make ideal customers for storage developers. They are willing to accept longer payback periods compared to private-sector customers, have multiple buildings to allow for many deployments from a single contract, and usually have needs for bill reduction and resilience."

Interest in combining projects that include solar generation and energy storage is on the rise, added Matt Walz, CEO of REC Solar. "By choosing solar plus storage, the district will further control costs under new time-of-use rates, reduce demand charges and cut emissions during peak hours when the electric grid is stressed by high demand."

REC Solar said it has installed solar projects in 100-plus California districts and schools. The Pleasanton project is expected to be done in October 2019.

About the Author

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