Local schools save with solar panels, batteries

By Pat Maio, The San Diego Union-Tribune

With power rates skyrocketing for San Diego County school districts, Escondido’s has become the latest to agree to a power purchase agreement with a Silicon Valley-based solar company. The deal could help bring $9.8 million in savings over the next 20 years, a district official said.

Escondido Union High School District has dodged some of the larger power bills hitting school districts in San Diego County because of past initiatives to replace old heating and air-conditioning units, and replace light fixtures with more-efficient ones, said Michael Simonson, associate superintendent of business services with the Escondido school district. Over the past two school years, for instance, the Escondido school district has cut its demand for power by 958,000 kilowatt hours.

Meanwhile, its power bill from San Diego Gas & Electric Co. has risen by about $195,000, or 13 percent, from $1.43 million in the 2013-14 school year to $1.62 million, this past year. “The increased costs paid to utilities are dollars that we can’t spend on the classroom,” Simonson said. “We are trying to put that destiny in our hands and balance out some of those potential rate increases. When you look at what is in front of us, this is a good start for the next 20 years.”

San Jose-based SunPower Corp. hopes to begin construction of the solar panels by next summer at Del Lago Academy, and Orange Glen, San Pasqual and Escondido high schools. The panels will be situated atop carports planned for the student parking lots, and will provide shade during the day, and protection from rainy weather. The carports will be wide enough to shade two rows of cars.

The solar panels are just one part of the Escondido district’s energy-conservation plans. Tesla Motors Inc. also has a deal in place to build stationary battery storage systems for three of the Escondido school district’s high schools — a project that officials hope could save hundreds of thousands of dollars annually in electricity costs.

Read full article in the San Diego Union-Tribune

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