Nearly five months after five schools "flipped the switch" to solar energy, officials at San Ramon Valley Unified School District announced that the solar electricity systems are meeting and, in most cases, exceeding expectations.
Since the systems first came online in October 2011, average production has exceeded 100 percent of expected kiloWatt hours (kWh). In February, the solar system generated 369,030 kWh, exceeding predictions by 19 percent. According to district records, the excess electricity saved $129,161.
"We are very pleased with the results," Superintendent Steven Enoch said in a release. "It would certainly appear that we are on track to pay back the bond and to generate additional savings which can be applied in support of our students and their learning."
The systems, which are in place at California, Dougherty Valley, Monte Vista and San Ramon Valley high schools and at Diablo Vista Middle School, collectively use 10,272 high-efficiency solar panels to convert solar energy to electricity. SunPower installed solar systems over four months 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 solar initiative was funded with $25 million in near 0 percent-interest qualified school construction bonds from the federal government. These will be paid off through the energy savings realized by the systems. The district projects that in approximately 16 years the bonds will be paid off and the district will then realize an estimated $2 million per year in energy savings to the district's general fund budget.
According to ATI Architects and Engineers' Tim Steele, the panels are expected to provide energy and shade to students and staff for at least 17 years. Each system has been set to avoid shadows and capture the most sunlight in each specific campus, and should only require minor upkeep.
SRVUSD will publish an updated solar energy production and savings chart each month that includes current information regarding expected/actual kWh production and net/cumulative savings (avoided costs) to the district. The chart reflecting the first five months of solar output, and more information about the solar initiative can be found at www.srvusd.net/solar.