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Solar parking canopies save SDUHSD $3.4 million

Solar shade canopies installed at Canyon Crest Academy and La Costa Canyon High School have saved San Dieguito Union High School District more than $3.4 million in energy costs to date. OpTerra Energy Services worked with the district on program development, financing, design and construction of the two megawatt solar photovoltaic-covered parking structures.

The project is expected to save the district more than $10.5 million over its 15-year lifetime. In addition to the money the district now saves on electricity costs, the sale of Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs) generated by the system provides the district with a new source of revenue.

With a successfully performing solar installation for over five years, San Dieguito stands out as a leader in renewable energy for the San Diego County school system. OpTerra designed and built the carport shade structures in 2010 and continues to operate, maintain, measure and guarantee the system’s performance. Project costs were offset by a $4.7 million rebate from the California Solar Initiative and other available funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

San Dieguito also tapped into funding support from the Clean Renewable Energy Bonds (CREBs) program. Working with a coalition of San Diego stakeholders led by CleanTECH San Diego at the start of its energy project, SDUHSD was one of the local participants eligible to access funding from $154 million in allocations to finance renewable energy projects for public facilities under CREBs. The total CREBs allocations to the San Diego region made up 19 percent of the total allocations going to public agencies nationwide at the beginning of SDUHSD’s solar construction.

“Using a dynamic set of funding streams to support our project, the solar canopies have saved the district millions so far. And that money is put right back into the classroom,” said SDUHSD Superintendent Rick Schmitt. “On top of that, students are able to witness firsthand how energy efficiency and sustainability affects each and every one of them as a result of the solar on campus.”

The positive impact of SDUHSD’s solar project will continue to guide new development across the district, including the new Earl Warren Middle School campus, which will include solar generation as part of its construction.