Berryessa Union SD Uses Bond to Save $12.5M Through Integrated Solar and STEM Program
SAN JOSE, CA Berryessa Union School District (BUSD) celebrated the beginning of its new, district-wide initiative to empower student success through an integrated solar energy and STEM program during a groundbreaking event at Piedmont Middle School yesterday. Through a collaborative partnership with OpTerra Energy Services, the District is leveraging its Measure L bond funding to build a comprehensive sustainability program that will generate renewable energy, while offering STEM educational opportunities for students and teachers tied to solar science. The program will save the district $12.5 million in energy savings.
Leveraging Bond Money for Long-Term Savings
In early 2015, District leaders sought ways to leverage Measure L bond funds to make investments in renewable energy that would generate long-term savings. In addition to enhancing their sustainability profile, BUSD wanted to make sure that any solar project would complement the District's ongoing STEM education program. The Board selected OpTerra Energy Services to be their district-wide partner as they co-developed a comprehensive solar scope to serve all campuses, with educational offerings that will be customized to support different grade levels across the district.
Over the past 12 months, BUSD has worked closely with a San Jose-based team of OpTerra engineers to conduct a district-wide assessment and analysis of all school sites and district property to identify the best opportunities for solar energy generation. As part of OpTerra's commitment to building long-term impact, the OpTerra education team is partnering with principals and teachers across the District to design hands-on STEM activities using the solar production data as a platform for direct STEM learning.
In just one year, the Berryessa Union SD Board of Trustees had utilized their bond funding to design and develop their district-wide sustainability program right on time to start construction this spring.
Solar and Site Modernization Plan
With the program officially kicking off next month, BUSD's solar and site modernization plan is set to accomplish the following:
$12.5 million in net savings over the life of the program
2.4MW of solar at all 13 District sites
The combination of solar shade canopies and ground-mounted solar will take on 80-90% of planned electric load by site
Construction of a new, high efficiency Central Kitchen, creation of multiple flexible instructional spaces, and installation of upgraded classroom furniture and repaving of multiple sites
Hands-on STEM education curriculum aligned with Next Generation Science Standards and Common Core State Standards
Environmental stewardship through GHG emission reduction
Earth Day, Every Day
During the groundbreaking celebration, Superintendent Ector shared that, "Our goal for our new solar program is to set the bar for sustainability at districts across the region. We are proud that as a result of this program, Berryessa's ability to conserve energy will be complemented by a natural fit education tie-in. The benefits of our solar program are both immediate and long-term, empowering our students, staff, and community to support Earth Day, every day."
OpTerra CEO John Mahoney also shared his enthusiasm for what Berryessa's new solar program will mean for the region, stating, "Berryessa's 2.4MW solar program represents a significant commitment to both environmental and fiscal stewardship. With expected savings of over 3 million kWh in the first year - the equivalent to taking 500 cars off the freeways here - the OpTerra team congratulates the District on making these first important steps toward a more sustainable future for San Jose."
Solar canopy structure implementation will begin at school sites this summer to avoid any disruption to class schedules. As Berryessa's energy work continues to unfold, the District looks forward to engaging with the community to promote milestones and new successes throughout the school year.