South San Francisco school district to save money with solar

Three years after South San Francisco Unified School District was looking at potential bankruptcy, it is cutting costs and creating jobs by partnering with one of the country’s largest solar energy companies.

The district is using funds provided by Measure J to pay Chevron Energy Solutions, whose parent company is San Ramon-based Chevron Corp., to create the largest K-12 solar and energy-efficiency program in San Mateo County, projected to save the district $1.5 million a year over the first five years in energy costs.

Solar-panel construction, expected to provide 100 local green jobs for workers, began June 30 and is scheduled to be complete in about 15 months. Measure J, passed by voters in November, raised $162 million to improve school infrastructure and enhance student learning.

The partnership with Chevron is the first time the district will use Measure J funds.

“This saved us. We would have had to make some really painful cuts,” said Phil Weise, clerk for the South San Francisco school district’s Board of Trustees, who proposed the measure.

Solar panels on site will become the main source of power generation at all 15 district schools. The company will also use energy-efficiency measures in the district’s lighting, irrigation, heating, ventilation and air-conditioning systems, expected to provide better lighting quality and aesthetics, lower costs and improve indoor climate, said Ken Pimental, manager of policy, government and public affairs for Chevron Energy Solutions.

Chevron will also provide curriculum, solar kits and in-person education for teachers in the district, he said.

Pimental said the energy-reduction project is being funded with $14.8 million of Measure J funds. While the district’s Weise estimated the partnership with Chevron could bring the district as much as $35 million in savings over the 20-year life of the project, Pimental put the figure around $20 million in savings. He said the project is expected to cut the district’s annual electrical-utility usage in half and reduce its carbon emissions by more than 1,500 metric tons, equivalent to the carbon sequestered by 328 acres of pine forests.

“Chevron Energy Solutions is focused on providing energy efficiency and alternative-energy programs for institutions, municipalities and other government agencies, and private enterprise,” said Chevron Energy Solutions President Jim Davis.

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