About an hour outside of Los Angeles near the Pacific coastline lies the Oxnard School District, which consists of 20 schools that serve more than 16,000 students, grades K-8. While school administrators realized that installing solar through a power purchase agreement (PPA) could reduce energy bills, they were concerned about community aesthetics and construction activities disrupting school activities. So rather than install solar on all 20 campuses at once, the district decided to give installing solar a four-school test.
The district’s first test for solar was a financial one: Could SolarCity lower the district’s energy bills with no upfront costs? The correct answer was yes. Thanks to abundant year-round sunshine at the four sites, SolarCity projected that the district could save about $1.4 million* over the 15-year PPA contract. SolarCity installed the system at no cost to the school and is taking care of all maintenance and repairs.
The second test was aesthetics. Where would the solar systems be installed, and how would they look? SolarCity met with district personnel at each of the four schools to discuss and plan the location for the solar projects — in each case a shade structure. SolarCity representatives explained how the solar structures would provide shade for faculty cars, and—in some cases—for students and staff during outdoor student-assembly activities. SolarCity involved the district in all aspects of the decision-making process to address their concerns and the project moved into permitting.
The final exam was installation. Construction began at the start of the school year, so SolarCity project managers had to be extra careful not to interrupt classes. Crews worked outside of regular school hours and on weekends to get the project completed on time and minimize disruptions.
Trenching and inserting electrical cables from the solar structures to the school’s electrical system was all completed safely and without affecting daily operations or campus activities. SolarCity completed all four campuses in about a month, ahead of its promised completion date.
Having passed this initial solar test, the Oxnard School District is now considering installing solar systems on its remaining campuses. SolarCity is also working with the district to create educational materials for students to learn more about the benefits of renewable energy.