By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Proposed solar power system could slash PG&E bills for MUSD
MUSD SolarEnergy 1a
Pictured are samples of shade structure solar panels that the Manteca Unified School District could be installing in some of its campuses. The Board of Trustees will vote on a solar system program for the district at their next meeting. - photo by Photo Contributed

Energy-saving solar power to Manteca Unified schools is not a matter of if but when. And when it becomes a reality could be just a matter of months – a year at the earliest or 18 months at the latest.

Depending on which course of action or type of system the Board of Trustees will decide to go, the energy savings could translate into big bucks for the school district. That could be as much as $48.1 million cumulative savings over 25 years or $3.2 million a year on the district’s PG&E bills depending on the project scenario the board will eventually choose based on various factors that include the type of solar installation selected – i.e., ground mount versus shade structure – and California Solar Initiative rebates that the district can obtain. The district also has the choice of eventually owning the renewable energy system installed once the loan is paid. The life of the loan is dependent upon the district’s capability of paying the loan for up to the proposed 17 years with payment for the first three years deferred at 0% interest, based on one of the scenarios presented.

Those were some of the details unveiled during the informational session conducted by Indoor Environmental Services and Integrated Engineers & Contractors, the partnership that is teaming together to deliver the energy-solution proposal to the district. After the two-and-a-half-hour number crunching and getting down to the smallest nitty-gritty details of the proposed project during the study session on Wednesday, the board instructed MUSD Energy Education Specialist Victoria Brunn to come up with a comparative summary of the three project scenarios presented by the two companies, along with a recommendation that the board would use as an information guide before taking a vote at their next meeting taking place in two weeks.

Included in the year-and-a-half timeline of the project installation is the time involved in obtaining the funding for the project which includes government grants and incentives. The project would involve an initial investment of $195,000 by the school district for 18 of its 30 school sites – high school and elementary campuses combined.

While cost savings is one of the two main issues that concerned Superintendent Jason Messer, he said that just as important is the educational aspect of the project. The companies, as an added benefit to the renewable energy systems they are proposing to install, are throwing in continued education commitment for the life of the contract, an environmental center to house a Sustainable Fabrication Academy at the district, and solar labs at every school site. This prompted a quip from Trustee Michael Seelye, who told the companies, “We’ll train our students to get you out of business.”

Seelye, a college professor, admitted that the energy subject is not one of his areas of expertise and made the suggestion for Brunn, whom he referred to as the district’s “energy czarina,” to come up with a “white paper back-up report” summarizing what have been discussed on Wednesday. That summary would accompany the recommendation from staff on the project scenario that would bring the district the best bang for its buck.

Responding to the superintendent’s remark on the educational aspect of the project, IES owner and president Stan Butts said his company has “an educational trailer going all over the country” which will make Manteca Unified one of its regular stops once the deal is cemented.

“We can get that trailer come here at least once a year,” Butts said to the district officials at the meeting.

Manteca would not be the first client for his company. They already have renewable energy systems installed in several places throughout California including school districts in Delano and Selma in the Central Valley, and East Whittier City school district in Southern California.

IES is an “energy-conservation specialist with extensive California K-12 experience,” with IEC as “solar integrator and public utility partner.”

They have already performed site evaluations of all of the district’s 30 campuses and have met with the schools’ principals and other staff to explain the project and to discuss options as to the placement of solar structures at their respective sites. Only 18 of the 30 schools are going to be included in the renewable energy system installations.