Lancaster Scales SolarCity Program and 25 Schools Turn Sunshine Into Savings™
Solar Savings Fund Teacher Salaries
Lancaster and Eastside School Districts, serving nearly 18,000 students in 25 schools in the Antelope Valley, explored the prospect of installing solar systems at their schools to save money on energy expenses. The evaluation process seemed daunting and they were uncomfortable with the risks involved with purchasing, owning and operating energy assets. When the districts were faced with budget cuts and layoffs, they decided they did not have the resources and funds to take on new infrastructure projects at the time.
Then with the help of a unique public and private partnership between Lancaster Power Authority (LPA) and SolarCity, the districts renewed their solar ambitions. The partnership enabled the districts to install solar shade structures at all of the school and districts' sites within the next 9 months. The expected combined savings is $325,000 in the first year, representing a 20% reduction in energy expenses and direct savings towards the general fund.
Schools Tap into SolarCity's Experience with City Government
In 2010 the City of Lancaster, after having conducted their own thorough examination process of solar, contracted SolarCity to install shade structures on 5 city owned sites, including Lancaster City Hall. Through this effort, the City became comfortable with the operational and financial mechanics of solar and approached Lancaster and Eastside School Districts. By creating a collaborated effort with SolarCity, the LPA offered to sell power to the schools, while managing the scheduling, permitting and project management of the installations. Both executive cabinets and school boards responded favorably to working directly with the public sector and approved the program within a few months.
Construction of the solar shade structures began in the summer of 2011. One of the reasons solar shade structures were chosen is that many of the schools have roofs in different stages of their warranty cycle and need roofing work to make them solar ready. Additionally, the District State Architects (DSA) has a clear preference for solar installations in parking lots and has simplified the permitting process. SolarCity uses DSA pre-checked designs that expedite the approval process. The additional benefit of locating the solar energy systems in the parking lot is shaded parking for faculty, parents and studentsÑa relief in the often triple digit heat of the high desert.