In Episode 75 of The Wendel Forum (originally aired on September 1, 2012, on 960 KNEW AM radio), show moderator Bill Acevedo, chair of Wendel Rosen’s sustainable business practice group, welcomes Gary Eberhart, who serves on the board of the Mt. Diablo Unified School District, which serves 32,000 children and adult students at 56 campuses, making it one of the largest school districts in California.
Amid decreasing budgets and increasing energy costs, the Mt. Diablo School District secured a $350 million bond from the community to add solar energy to 51 of the district’s schools. Eberhart and his fellow board members determined that purchasing a solar energy system through a bond program would be more cost-effective than buying power from a solar provider under a long-term purchase agreement. Specifically, Eberhart, who has served on the school board for 17 years, determined they could invest the estimated $220 million savings back into the schools over the system’s 30-year life expectancy. The bond measure was approved by 60 percent of the community.
Mt. Diablo’s 12.2-megawatt system is the largest program in the world for a school district and will meet 92 percent of the district’s energy needs. After a competitive selection process for the contractor, the installation took one year and all but a handful of the 51 systems are now up and running. The solar panels were installed primarily in parking lots and on playground structures, which Eberhart says look better and are easier to maintain than roof panels. The solar energy systems are also providing a unique educational tool for students, who can monitor energy and cost savings through real-time data.
Could your school district use solar energy?