The La Mesa Junior High School Lobo Jazz Band played “On the Sunny Side of the Street” as officials from the William S. Hart School District gathered with their solar business partners PSomasFMG on a collaboration that is expected to save the district an estimated $1million dollars a year for 20 years on energy costs.
Under the 20 year Power Purchase Agreement the district has agreed to buy electricity at a fixed rate at 10 District sites. This 7.3 Megawatt solar project is estimated to save Hart approximately $18-20 million over the 20 year contract. In the first year alone, the District estimates a 10 percent reduction in energy costs.
“When we decided to go into this business, the solar development business, it was a business we decided to go into to do good first and like any business to do well,” said Albert Nagy, COO of PsomasFMG.
Hart District has no upfront cost or capital investment for the solar system because PsomasFMG is paying for the construction of the solar panels that are being installing at the 10 district sites as a combination of solar arrays, including ground mounted structures on open land and carport structures in parking lots. The disrict is only obligated to purchase the power produced from the solar systems.
“We thought that the best way to be in the solar business was to give back to the communities. And what’s the best way to do that is to give back to schools,” said Nagy.
Dignitaries in the audience included executives from PsomasFMG but also many members of the community who are politically active. Nagy believes sustainable energy encompasses all political views.
“For our country it helps make us energy independent and it helps the environment. So in one way you cover both sides of the political spectrum. And in another way you cut costs for the school districts,” said Nagy.
District Superintendent Rob Challinor thanked members of the community for supporting the project and dealing with the inconvenience of construction. Although he says they made a considerable effort to communicate with the community, some people didn’t understand what was going on with the solar shade arrays.
He related a conversation he’d had with La Mesa principal Pete Fries.
“Just this morning when I arrived he said they got a phone call talking about ‘Why is the district building shade structures just to keep the teacher’s cars cool?’ They didn’t realize we were generating 7.3 megawatts of energy along the process,” said Challinor.
The solar arrays consist of photovoltaic panels which take the sunlight and converts it into electricity for the district to use at each campus. When the system produces more power during sunlight hours than is needed, the utility meter literally spins backwards, accumulating credits with Southern California Edison. Net metering allows excess generation in any given month to be carried over to the next billing month, typically for up to one year.
Construction began November 21, at La Mesa, Rio Norte and Rancho Pico Junior High schools; December 21, at Canyon, Saugus and Valencia High Schools; and February 16, at West Ranch and Golden Valley High Schools and Sierra Vista Junior High School.
For information on project size, finances, and construction schedules click here or here.