California school district goes solar in 2010

California school district goes solar in 2010

Summary: A 21-building solar project in California won't just supply power to the classroom, it will create fodder for new course materials.

TOPICS: Telcos

Whether or not you believe that climate change will bring us all to the brink of extinction or whether or not you think renewable energy is too complicated or too expensive, renewable energy projects continue to get funding. Which in my opinion, is a good thing. Seriously, I'm curious as to why the government worries itself over allegedly monopolistic behavior by the technology industry and then it turns around and supports policies that reinforce policies that encourage a veritable monopoly on energy sources by the oil and gas industry.

But I digress and the real point of this blog is to mention a deal struck in December 2009 between the Irvine Unified School District, SPG Solar and SunEdison. The agreement calls for the district to install solar power panels at all 21 of its district sites over the course of this year, which could save it a projected $17 million in electricity costs over the next two decades. (That's a reduction about 10 percent per year.) The school doesn't have to put up money upfront, as the system will be financed, built and operated by SunEdison; Irvine Unified will buy back the power through a power purchase agreement. An estimated 6.6 million kilowatt hours of electricity could be generated in the first year alone.

Tom Rooney, president and CEO of SPG Solar, the Novato, Calif., company that is installing and integrating the technology in Irvine, says the solar systems will provide about 45 percent of the power needs of the school. The deal came about over the course of several months: originally, the district was looking just to install a single array, but (ironically) by extending the scope of the project it was able to get the funding through SunEdison more easily.

Rooney says the first roof installation will begin in March 2010. The bulk of the installs will take place over the summer, with the entire system hopefully in place by late in the year.

Aside from installing the panels, SPG Solar will work with the school to stream data from the systems into the classrooms in order to create learning environments and data exchanges that can be used in new classroom materials.

Here's some more insight on that element of the project from Irvine Unified board member Michael Parham:

"This could be one of the most valuable teaching tools we have in our schools. We need sustainability in our schools, not just on our roofs or in our recycling programs, but in our classrooms too. That is why as good as this solar energy program will be, what we will be doing to use solar energy to teach our kids about math, science, business, finance and art will be even more important."

Topic: Telcos

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.


Log in or register to join the discussion
  • 10% isn't sustainability and I doubt they'll even get that

    And that's in a very sunny climate. The problem isn't in funding renewable energy research, it's that when it's done with taxpayer dollars by know nothing bureaucrats it tends to collesce around technologies that have already proven unfruitful like ethanol, solar, and wind. When the R&D hasn't gotten you good enough results yet it's too early to start spending the money on mass production. Keep the money focused on bettering the solar tech and stop spending it on building solar panels that you know have laughably small output and stupid tax credits for getting people to waste time and money to install them.
    Johnny Vegas
    • The 10% is on electrical cost.

      The energy from the panels is expected to be about 45% of the needs of the school. That's a pretty good percentage, and it seems like a reasonable deal. The school gets a break on electricity costs while the utility company gets a place to put up some solar panels.
  • RE: California school district goes solar in 2010

    Will these solar cell arrays continue to be supported, or will they languish and be forgotten when the novelty wears off and government subsidies are no longer available?
  • RE: California school district goes solar in 2010

    What do you do when you need to re-roof the building - how much is it going to cost to remove and re-install the panels and equipment???
  • Go Solar!

    As I flew into Phoenix not too long ago, I could not find a single solar panel installed on any of the city rooftops. Incredible! If Bush/Obama had invested in renewable energy projects with the money that has been otherwise squandered in our recent wars, these discussions on energy would be academic.
    • It must all be mega-projects.

      That's the only way these things work. Large lobbyists working for large companies with lots of hidden ways to make something cost 2Xs what it would if people cared about the money they were spending.

      I'd love to install panels on my roof, San Antonio, 323 days of sunshine average per year, but anything close to reasonable output is 25 year payback which makes no sense because 10 years is a LONG time not needing to replace a panel.

      So rather than subsidize a million "home kits" for a $1B, really leading to large scale production efficiencies, we get a single overpriced project.

  • Perhaps time for another correction Harry

    "The advert claimed "climate change has allowed the
    Northeast Passage to be used as a commercial shipping
    route for the first time," according to The Register.

    The Northeast Passage - a trade route linking North
    European and Siberian ports to Asia in summer months -
    has been open since 1934, according to The Register, and
    was made available as a route for international traffic after
    the fall of the Soviet Union."

    Appears chillingly similar to claims made previously by
    Richard Flude
    • Yeah, Harry is wrong again and again.

      Maybe it's something genetic. Y'know, some dna code causing someone to be wrong 100% of the time. Hmm. That would be a reason to remove his right to vote. Cool.
      • Actually he's not wrong

        It's the northwest passage he talked about, not the northeast. Nice try though.
    • Wrong blog and wrong information Richard

      This one was by Heather, not Harry.
      Also, what harry said was the Northwest Passage not the northeast passage.
      EPIC FAIL on all counts Richard!
  • Darn this global warming!
  • Most People Don't Know

    ... that the biggest obstacle to solar power is (drum
    roll please...) the environmentalists. Yes, you read
    that right. We've got two (used to be three, they
    killed one of them) big solar plant projects in our
    county and there are only two major opponents.
    Naturally, the neighbors, but more vocal and much
    better organized, are the environmental groups.

    You'd think that enviros would be all over solar power
    and other renewable energy sources, but if you
    actually look (i.e. go to a Planning Commission
    meeting in your local jurisdiction) you'll find that
    they routinely and openly oppose renewable energy

    Why would they do this? Their argument is, quite
    simply, that those installations are bad for the
    environment. That there's endangered species (kit fox,
    anyone?) that will be impacted. That there will be
    long term environmental impacts from all those
    mirrors/panels, etc.

    They don't even hear themselves - and yet, here they
    are big as life saying "We need renewable energy" on
    one hand, and then opposing it on the other.