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Solar Project Completion Energizes School District
Solar switch
A ceremonial flipping of the switch to signify Escalon Unified School Districts entrance into the solar power world was hosted on the high school campus, with board officials, administrators, students and more in attendance. Photo Contributed

It was a ceremonial ‘flipping of the switch’ recently on the Escalon High School campus, under the new solar array positioned over the student parking lot.

School administrators, staff, students, school board members, project officials and more were on hand for the event, designed to showcase the Escalon Unified School District’s entry into solar energy.

It’s a project that started back in December, 2016, said officials, when the EUSD and ENGIE Services U.S. entered into a partnership to implement a comprehensive energy program to reduce utility spending and improve the learning environment for students and teaches.

“I look forward to our district producing the vast majority of our electricity on site,” District Superintendent Ron Costa said. “This partnership is allowing us to invest in long-term resilience while showing our students that their school is committed to their futures and a more sustainable community.”

Information provided at the ‘flip switch’ indicated that $15.3M is anticipated in expected energy savings over the program lifetime, and nearly 1.2 MW of solar photovoltaic was installed across six district sites, producing two million kilowatt hours in the first year of the program. The overall program is expected to reduce the district’s electricity costs by 85 percent.

After a thorough review and investigation, the ENGIE team determined that focusing on the solar PV installation, exterior lighting upgrades, a pool pump replacement and HVAC upgrades would provide the greatest savings to Escalon Unified on their electric bills.

Construction on the solar arrays began in July 2017 and the commercial operation of the solar projects began in December 2017.

Six campuses have received the solar units and campuses, as well as the district office, replaced old lighting fixtures with new energy efficient LED lighting.

Funding was secured through QZAB, a Qualified Zone Academy Bond, with funding at zero percent interest for a 20-year finance term. The QZAB program, said officials, is a federally authorized program that provides a method of funding at no interest cost, using tax credits to allow for school building renovation, equipment purchases, developing curricula and/or training school personnel.

Costa said the project is a win-win, with cost savings to the district and reducing the carbon footprint to help protect the environment for future generations.