Last March, Visalia Unified School District unveiled their solar project- the installation of solar panels at 12 campuses to produce electricity and save money. The solar panels were fixed to parking and playground shade areas as part of a $10-million project using Measure E school bond money and an internal loan, estimated to save the district an estimated $11 million over the next 25 years.
Solar Panels Lead to More Savings Than Expected
The 2.35-megawatt project was expected to save the district roughly $627,000 in electricity costs in its first year. The actual savings over the 2014-2015 year? $952,307. The district broke down where the savings came from: $506,188 was saved in energy costs, $6,188 more than forecast, plus the solar arrays generated a rebate of $446,119. Visalia Unified estimates that the financial savings and rebates are forecast will cover the investment on the panels within seven years, however the payback time may be even shorter if yearly energy savings continue to exceed estimates in coming years.
“We are very pleased to be able to report that the systems exceeded expectations,” Robert Groeber, assistant superintendent of administrative services, said. “The solar savings mean less money is taken from the general fund — which is how the district pays for direct student services.”
Solar Panel Installations at 12 Schools and Counting
VUSD’s solar panel installations are currently located at the following elementary schools: Crowley, Fairview, Highland, Houston, Ivanhoe, Linwood, Pinkham, Veva Blunt and Golden Oak; at Green Acres and La Joya middle schools; and at Redwood High. In addition to their current panels a second wave of solar installations is nearly complete at the following schools: Mountain View, Royal Oaks, Washington, Charter Alternatives Academy, at Visalia Learning Center, and the operations center. These solar panel installations are being funded through Proposition 39, the California Clean Energy Jobs Act.