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Bay Area school district offsets budget cuts with solar energy

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

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Mount Diablo Unified School District, which sits just east of San Francisco and Oakland, partnered with SunPower Corp to install the world’s largest solar installation for a school district. The District now has 12.1 MW (magawatts) of solar capacity at its facilities and parking lots.

Perhaps more interesting is how the economics of solar are factoring in to the District’s budget. Max Pringle writes:

Mt. Diablo faces a bleak future of millions of dollars of state funding cuts and slashed school programs. But, three years ago, District officials came up with the idea of offsetting projected budget cuts with savings from renewable energy. “We’re going to be generating about $6 million in these obviously difficult financial times in the State of California,” said Mount Diablo Schools Superintendent Steven Lawrence. “That’s huge and it’s equivalent to about 100 teaching positions.”

The PV installations are expected to save the District $220 million over 30 years. The project was paid for in part by federal Clean Renewable Energy Bonds, along with general obligation bonds. The project also presents an opportunity for students to learn about the science and engineering of energy systems.


David Wogan About the Author: An engineer and policy researcher who writes about energy, technology, and policy - and everything in between. Based in Austin, Texas. Comments? Follow on Twitter @davidwogan.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

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  1. 1. sault 4:21 pm 01/8/2014

    Thank for posting these encouraging stories, David! There is way too much misinformation about clean energy getting spread around in the comments on SciAm articles and we need more good reporting like this to show how it works in the real world.

    Link to this
  2. 2. Uncle.Al 5:53 pm 01/8/2014

    PV solar has a total system levelized cost around $144.3/MWh. The installation will then generate, start to finish in real folding green no matter who forked it over, negative income overall. It’s the $losh not the dump that matters.

    But wait! What of competing technologies? Natural gas combustion turbine $70/MWh; nuclear $60/MWh, coal, pulverized, scrubbed $50/MWh.

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  3. 3. sethdiyal 7:12 pm 01/8/2014

    Actually before subsidy the cost of utility scale solar is 35 cents a kwh in Ca before a grid subsidy of a further 30 cents is applied to pay for gas backup, 5 times sized transmission, and surplus dumping.

    Google “transcanada-acquires-additional-ontario-power-plant-from-canadian-solar”

    Link to this
  4. 4. Uncle.Al 1:50 pm 01/9/2014

    “35 cents a kwh” That is $350/MWh. I apologize for being 243% optimistic, claimed profits vs. real costs.

    Link to this
  5. 5. kristahiles 12:48 am 03/18/2014

    Fossil fuels contain carbon components which harms our mother earth. We all know about the big threat of global warming. it’s the right time for all of us to switch over to renewable energy resources.

    Link to this

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