"Solar energy for no money down!"
Irvine school board member Mike Parham is raising the ante: He’ll see your solar carport, and raise you full solar installations on every one of his 21 schools.
Purported to be the largest solar deployment for a public school system in California, and possibly the United States, the project will reduce Irvine’s school power bill by 20 percent – a savings of $17 million over twenty years….
An added component to this exciting venture is taking solar into the classroom. Using an internet-based monitoring system, students can track each solar site in real time while participating in lessons on how solar panels work and how weather impacts energy production. The school will also introduce a complement of courses to educate students about the use and benefits of photovoltaics.
That’s the amazing solar news story from last week. The school system put no money down!
The CEO of SPG told me, “The combination of leading solar technology and educational opportunity makes the Irvine Unified School District project unique. And for that, Board Member Mike Parham is to be congratulated.”
What follows is guest post on this remarkable deal by Shelly Yarbroug. Shelly is a member of the Val Verde School Board in Riverside California, as well as a member of the Board of Directors of the California School Board Association.
Parham will see your one-day-a-year expo on alternative energy, and raise you a solar energy system that is fully incorporated into all manner of classroom instruction for math, science, business, physics, geography, art, social studies, and just about every other subject that touches on how we get and use energy.
Which of course is just about everything.
They are taking solar to a new level for school districts.
And they are doing it at no cost to the taxpayers, and even making money on the deal.
If you want to see how, let’s start at the beginning: Private companies love solar today because of the full range of tax credits and rebates from state, local and federal governments, as well as from their utilities that makes solar an almost irresistible business proposition.
But schools do not pay taxes. So all those great incentives would have no value if the schools purchased and operated their own systems.
So they do not. They let someone else do it for them.
In the case of the Irvine Unified School District, it had to take two steps: One, they had to rent their roofs on their property to a solar company that would purchase, finance, install, and operate their solar energy system.
Then they had to enter into an agreement to buy the power at a fixed and discounted rate for 20 years.
That’s it. Here’s a few numbers:
If for example, the school district was paying $1 for some unit of energy, then the solar provider, in this case a partnership between SPG Solar and Sun Edison, can produce the same amount of energy for say …. 60 cents.
It then sells the energy to the school district for 80 cents. So the energy provider makes a profit to finance the system, and school gets an immediate and significant savings on its energy bill — anywhere from 7 to 15 pecent.
For all you solar gearheads out there, here are some technical details:
This project will generate over 6.6 million kilowatt hours of solar energy every year based on the projected 21 sites to be developed for Irvine Unified School District. Over 20 years, that means the school district will remove 127 million pounds of carbon.
All the while making a buck or two: School officials and SPG Solar estimate it will reduce energy bills at least $17 million over the course of the 20 year agreement.
As a ten-year school board member, I like the innovation and foresight that created this kind of partnership. And the money is good too.
This is going to be the largest school district solar project rollout in the country. That by itself would make it a game changer. But when you add all the things the school district under the leadership of board member Mike Parhnam are adding to the curriculum, that takes it to a whole new level.
You can insert your favorite gambling or sports metaphor here. But one thing is clear: Parham and the Irvine Unified School District is all in.
And school board members around the country are taking notes. Now we will see who steps up next.