The San Ramon Valley school district is poised to expand its solar-energy program after the school board approved a contract with SunPower Corp. last week to add solar arrays at up to 16 schools with funding through tax-credit bonds.
District officials say the new solar panels are expected to nearly double the district's overall generation of solar energy and save the district more than $16 million in energy costs over 25 years.
The district's current solar program -- in place at all four comprehensive high schools and two middle schools -- has generated enough energy to power more than 2,200 homes for one year since its implementation in 2011 and is on track to save the district about $18 million in energy costs over 25 years, officials said.
"To have the opportunity to generate this amount of clean energy while putting savings of $34 million back into the budget is a wonderful thing for the environment and the educational program," Gary Black, assistant superintendent of facilities and operations, said in a statement.
For the newest set of solar projects, the district is looking to add solar panels at as many as 11 elementary schools and five middle schools through a combination of rooftop, parking lot and blacktop structures.
Most of the construction work will take place next summer, district officials said.
The school board on Tuesday approved a maximum $12.44 million contract with SunPower to design and build the solar panels.
To finance the effort, the district is in the process of selling approximately $13.2 million in clean renewable energy bonds. The federally authorized program allows for a net interest rate of less than 1%, according to district officials.
The schools on the project list include Bella Vista, Bollinger Canyon, Coyote Creek, Creekside, Green Valley, Greenbrook, Hidden Hills, John Baldwin, Live Oak, Quail Run and Tassajara Hills elementary schools.
The middle schools on tap are Iron Horse, Los Cerros, Pine Valley, Windemere Ranch and Charlotte Wood middle schools.
Over the 25-year period after implementation, SunPower guarantees the project to generate at least $16 million over and above the payback of the initial debt service, district officials said. The projection is based on 95% production, while actual savings is expected to be approximately 5% higher, they added.
As proposed, the new initiative would bring solar panels to more than half of the district's schools.
The district previously added solar arrays to California, Dougherty Valley, Monte Vista and San Ramon Valley high schools, plus Diablo Vista and Gale Ranch middle schools, using funds from the sale of $25 million in qualified school construction bonds issued in 2010.
Those six systems generate a combined 3.5 megawatts of energy at peak production and have generated 27.26 gigawatts of power since implementation in September 2011, according to the district. The new projects are estimated to generate 3.36 megawatts during peak production.