San Ramon Valley Unified students and staff gathered with residents and various dignitaries on Monday afternoon to dedicate the district's solar project, which placed thousands of solar panels at five schools. The systems will produce approximately 3.3-megawatts of solar capacity and is expected to generate more than two-thirds of each school's energy needs.
"This is a momentous occasion for the school district and the community," said Superintendent Steven Enoch. "It shows the best of our citizenry to take steps to put in place something that we will be proud of."
Enoch cited several reasons why the solar initiative was the right decision for SRVUSD, including environmentalism and good deals on bonds, and added that one of the largest reasons was that the district wants to practice what it preaches.
"It's right for students because action is really louder than words, " he said.
SunPower installed solar systems at California High School, Dougherty Valley High School, Monte Vista High School, San Ramon Valley High School and Diablo Vista Middle School over four months, creating 150 jobs. The systems feature 10,272 high-efficiency panels in parking lots and on roofs that are expected to save the district $20 million in energy bills over the next 25 years. SunPower expects the rotating panels to offset 76.3 million pounds of carbon dioxide during that time.
"The SunPower systems will bring millions of dollars in budget relief to the San Ramon Valley Unified School District over the 25-year life of the technology," said Enoch. "These long-term savings will allow the district to further pursue its academic mission, benefitting our students today and into the future."
Several groups of students were on hand to explain how solar energy will work at each school. Diablo Vista Middle School eighth grader Renee Masukawa said her school's panels will help fuel smart boards -- high-tech, iPad-esque white boards -- that are in most classrooms. As a member of the leadership class, Renee will report back to her classmates and explain how the solar panels work.
Although the panels will help power the various electrical needs of the school, several students expressed excitement about a non-electrical byproduct of the solar panels: shade.
"It was like an oven out here, you had to put the air conditioning on full blast to get in your car," said Monte Vista senior James Mason said of the school's north parking lot, a sun-soaked blacktop that now provides cool respite for students waiting for traffic to clear.
Still, the district's Board of Education was initially reluctant to take on the solar initiative and feared that it might negatively impact students. The concerns were soon abated, said Board President Greg Marvel.
"Millions of dollars will go right into the district's bottom line, into the classroom to help us through difficult times. This is one of the smartest fiscal things the district has ever done,'" he said.
The panels are expected to provide energy and shade to students and staff for at least 17 years, said ATI Architects and Engineers' Tim Steele. Each system has been set to avoid shadows and capture the most sunlight and avoid shadows in each specific campus, and should only require minor upkeep 20 years.