Another cash-strapped school district has found a way to cut its operating costs. The Barstow, California Unified School District (BUSD) has joined an ever-growing number of school districts that are cutting their utility bills by installing solar panels. The panels being installed on 8 schools will save the District $112,000 the first year and $5.3 million over 20 years. The announcement was made Wednesday.
Solar will off set 70% of electrical needs of the schools
The solar panels will offset an average of 70% of the electrical cost of the 8 schools. This brings about an immediate and long-term savings in operating costs. The district needed the savings. Roughly three-fourths of BUSD’s students qualify for free or low-cost meals and district budget reserves have been under strain due to a difficult economy and a high local unemployment rate.
The best news is that the district did not need to shell out any taxpayer money for the panels.
The panels were installed by SolarCity which has now installed solar systems for 300 schools, community colleges, and universities across the country. Last October, SolarCity installed panels on 14 schools in Boulder, Colorado.
Net Metering made project feasible
Barstow joins hundreds of other school districts across the state of California that is benefiting from state’s Net Metering policy, which credits solar customers for the surplus clean energy their systems send to the grid for neighbors to consume. Annie Lappé, Solar Policy Director for Colorado-based Vote Solar assisted in the Net Metering effort in California.
Net Metering allows California schools to help the grid become cleaner and more efficient while diverting taxpayer spending on energy to increased spending on education.
“I applaud the school district for making an investment in energy that could potentially redirect millions in savings to our students,” State Senator Jean Fullerton, who represents Barstow in the 18th District, said at the announcement this week.
BUSD Superintendent Jeff Malan noted that this project sets an example of environmental leadership for the students and community. "More importantly, going solar will help us to provide the best possible education for our students by cutting energy costs to free up funds that can be used directly in our classrooms to assist the teaching and support staff,” the Superintendent said.
“Nowhere is the value of solar greater than in our schools, where reduced utility electricity consumption benefits taxpayers, students, administrators and the environment,” said SolarCity Regional Vice President Jim Cahill. “SolarCity is proud to help the Barstow Unified School District achieve its goals of continued educational and institutional improvement.”
As with Boulder’s system the solar power systems will provide students with firsthand demonstrations of how solar technology works, and of solar energy’s benefits to the classroom, where students can view the school’s real-time energy production. Hopefully students will then educate their parents and other adults about this clean energy system.
SolarCity is a publicly traded solar energy company listed on NASDAQ as SCTY. The company has 2,800 employees in 14 states. SolarCity provides renewable electricity directly to homeowners, businesses and government organizations for less than they spend on utility bills. SolarCity currently signs a new customer every five minutes.
Project like the one in Barstow, California are essential if we are to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in time to slow done the warming of the earth that is causing climate change. There need to be more of these public/private ventures.