California school district saves $70 million with 8.1 MW solar installation


Energy costs are the second largest expense for U.S. schools, according to the report Brighter Future: A Study on Solar in U.S. Schools by Generation 180, SEIA, and The Solar Foundation and the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA). One way to save is to go solar—and many schools are. In 2019 5.5% of all K-12 public and private schools in the U.S. had installed solar power, and it’s on the rise.

This week Chula Vista Elementary School District in California and ENGIE North America announced the completion of the district’s solar project, bringing the total amount installed to 8.1 MW across 48 sites. The district is also finalizing the installation of a microgrid system, which will provide backup emergency power to the district’s IT department, additional servers, and the Child Nutrition freezer. The microgrid’s battery storage system will also provide electricity during the peak time period of 4:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. when electric rates are highest.

The solar installation includes 18,050 panels installed as shade structures at 46 schools and on other buildings throughout the district. The $32 million project was funded through a G.O. Bond and is expected to save the district more than $70 million in electricity costs over the next 25 years.

“That is $70 million in savings even after project costs have been paid for,” said Oscar Esquivel, deputy superintendent. “By the end of this project, we think we will be able to generate about 90 percent of the District’s overall energy demands. That is a tremendous amount of energy—and savings for our District. This is a ‘green’ project both environmentally and fiscally.”

Houston, Texas based ENGIE North America works with clients on meeting energy efficiency, reliability, and sustainability goals through energy efficiency projects, providing energy supply (including renewables and natural gas), and the development, construction and operation of renewable energy assets (wind, solar, storage and more).

“ENGIE North America team is proud to deliver customized solar and microgrid solutions to customers like Chula Vista Elementary School District,” said Stefaan Sercu, managing director Energy Solutions Americas at ENGIE. “In addition to this technology serving as a critical resource during potential power outages, the bigger picture impact of the District’s move toward sustainable energy ensures long-term financial savings and resiliency.”

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