Saving schools with solar energy


Posted by on Thu, June 25, 2009

The San Mateo Daily Journal reports that the San Mateo Union High School district board members are looking at using solar energy projects as a means of using construction funds to save operating-budget dollars.

Solar power projects could save the San Mateo Union High School District $600,000 a year, according to a plan floated by one member of the Board of Trustees.

The money would come from Measure M, a $298 million bond passed in 2006 that can only be used for facility upgrades and not for hiring new teachers, said Trustee Stephen Rogers. The solar project, however, could help the district avoid future layoffs with the smart implementation of the bond money, Rogers said.
Currently, the district pays more than $1 million a year on energy with utility costs typically increasing about 5 percent a year, Rogers said.

Rogers credits good bond money management by outgoing Superintendent David Miller and his staff. The district has come under budget on practically every one of its construction projects, Rogers said, freeing up money to go solar.
Fellow Trustee Dave Pine is also excited about the possibility of going solar.

The Cabrillo district has heard similar proposals over the years, but has yet to pursue them. Cabrillo has about 40% the enrollment of San Mateo Union, and presumably the savings would be proportionately smaller. But a quarter of a million per year is still a tidy sum.

The district board is set to approve next year’s budget tonight.

The board last night agreed to look into a Chevron proposal for installing solar. Details are nonexistent, but apparently Chevron installs the equipment and the district pays some rate for 10 years (presumed to be lower than PG&E) and owns the installation afterwards.

At least that’s my understanding. Gaskill and some board member(s) to investigate.

MWSD did a number of capital improvements using revenue savings in a package proposed by Chevron Energy Solutions. You can see one of our solar arrays at

I imagine that’s the same deal.

It’s probably for the best, since it’s not obvious that CUSD will have much of a capital budget once they’re done with Cunha.

(Barry, there’s a problem with email comment notifications, in particular their markup. I’ll send you the one I just got from Scott’s comment.)

(Oh, and can’t the notify-me checkbox default to off? Or something?)

What about competitive proposals/bidding for projects—Real Goods, Sunpower, etc.? I have a problem with Chevron, with its corporate record, waltzing in alone.

It’s a reasonable point, Carl (though in my experience Real Goods is something of a gouger). But I think the attraction is that Chevron is supplying the financing as well as the equipment. And I take some comfort in the fact that MWSD did a similar deal (at least it sounds similar).