The Jefferson Elementary School District is switching to solar power in a move that will save millions of dollars and reduce the district's carbon footprint. When the installations are complete, all 14 schools, plus one administrative building and one central kitchen, will be equipped with solar panels.
Superintendent Bernie Vidales said solar power will meet as much as 85 percent of the district's electricity needs. He said the expected cost savings are crucial in light of significant budget cuts over the past five years — according to Vidales, state funding for schools has been reduced by 20 percent since 2008.
Vidales said the $12 million project will be partly paid for with funds from the 2012 Measure I, which allows the district to borrow money for a variety of repairs and improvements.
Vidales said roughly $700,000 also will come from the California Solar Initiative as a reward to the district for the energy it produces over the next five years. The $2 billion state program is designed to incentivize the installation of solar panels.
The district contracted with Chevron Energy Solutions to install and maintain the solar panels. Company spokesman Brent Andrew said the project should save the district $17 million over the next 25 years, because the amount of electricity purchased from PG&E will be reduced by about 80 percent.
The district's carbon footprint is being reduced in two ways, according to Andrew. He said the switch to solar power will prevent 1,100 metric tons of carbon from being produced each year. Chevron Energy Solutions also is helping the district assess and improve its energy efficiency.
Andrew said the improvements, which include new heating and lighting systems, will keep another 275 metric tons of carbon out of the atmosphere each year.
Chevron Energy Solutions also helped design curriculum to teach students about solar power. Vidales said students will assemble small solar panels and use them to power electric motors. He said every school's office will feature an LCD display showing real-time energy production.
“This is a great way to model for kids what that looks like,” Vidales said. “They're our future engineers.”
When asked about the potential influence the curriculum could have on students, Vidales said it will not be an advertisement for Chevron Energy Solutions and that no company logos will appear in classrooms or on the solar panels.
Wherever possible, Vidales said, the large, rectangular solar arrays will be located in school parking lots, where they will serve as parking canopies. He said the district office's parking lot will host several electric-vehicle charging stations as well, and that he hopes to see charging stations eventually installed on campuses.
Vidales was not aware of any school district employee who drives an electric car. However, he said, some employees have expressed an interest in making the switch.
The Jefferson Elementary School District serves Daly City, Colma, parts of Pacifica and unincorporated Broadmoor.