An entire school district will soon be using solar power to operate their many school buildings and electrical devices. They will be getting 90 percent of their electricity from solar panels and over the next 30 years will save an estimated $200 million.
Mount Diablo Unified School District will build the largest solar power system of all school districts around the country. They will have a 12-megawatt system, costing about $80 million. (For the sake of comparison, it has been estimated one megawatt of can power about 500 homes, depending on conditions.)
SunPower provided the technology for their solar power system. The company has included 40 of the school district’s students in their internship program so that they can build job skills and have experience to put on their resumes and college applications.
Funds for the large solar project will come from a bond voted in by Contra Costa County residents in 2010 called Measure C.
The text of the measure on the ballot reads,”To support quality education and safety for local students, and reduce impacts of State budget cuts by improving science, career and technical education facilities; upgrading classroom instructional technology; repairing leaky roofs; improving safety; maximizing energy efficiency including adding solar panels and modern air conditioning; and repairing, replacing, equipping or modernizing other school facilities; shall Mt. Diablo Unified School District issue $348,000,000 of bonds at legal interest rates, with independent citizen oversight, audits, and no money for administrator salaries?”
There have been some criticisms of Measure C, namely that it requires much larger payments at the end of the bond’s life, a fact that could place a burden on local property owners they might not be currently aware of fully. Additionally, because those larger payments will require extra payments, it might make passing future bonds more difficult.
At either rate, the school district will get its solar power system and save most of the $3.5 million utility bill it typically pays each year. Of course, having an almost entirely self-sufficient renewable energy system is a very good learning experience for all the students who attend the schools. By the time the current classes of students attending Mt. Diablo USD have their own families, renewable energy may be the most common form of power, at least in California where there are very few coal power plants.
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