During the April 11, 2023 school board meeting, South Pasadena Unified School District (SPUSD) unveiled plans to install solar panels at all five district school sites and the District Office before the end of 2024. Each site will add roof, carport or field arrays in single- and double-wide configurations to maximize the amount of power produced while taking the existing landscape into consideration.
According to Generation180, a nonprofit that promotes and tracks clean energy, by early 2022 nearly one in 10 K-12 public schools across the country were using solar energy and the number continues to grow.
The SPUSD solar project was approved by the Board of Education and includes installing panels that will supply more than 1100kW DC of power. The panels will produce an energy (solar) offset ranging from 33-90% depending on the site where they are installed. Solar offset is the amount of electricity the solar project produces in a year divided by the total amount of electricity actually used that year expressed as a percentage. These estimates are impacted by roof size, solar seasonality, and utility regulations.
“By the end of this project, SPUSD anticipates generating a significant portion of the District’s overall energy demands,” said Superintendent Geoff Yantz. “We will be reducing our carbon footprint, accessing clean and affordable power, and helping capture immediate savings on annual energy costs.”
At Arroyo Vista and Marengo, solar arrays will be installed on the school playgrounds providing additional shade for students during recess and other activities. These arrays will not affect existing trees or hardscape around the area. Monterey Hills will see aged-out rooftop solar panels replaced with energy efficient devices.
South Pasadena Middle School will add field and carport arrays in several different areas. The field location will provide additional shade and shelter for students during physical education classes, sporting events and at lunchtime; and the carport panels will provide coverage for cars in the parking lot. At SPHS, panels will be installed on the roof of the Science Building parallel to Fremont Avenue and also in the parking lot, creating a space that provides welcome shade from sun and rain for staff and students who drive to school.
At the District Office, a carport array will be added, pending approval from the City of South Pasadena.
“The SPUSD solar panels will reduce CO2 emissions by 385 metric tons or think of it as the equivalent of planting 9,872 trees,” said Superintendent Yantz. “Every bit of energy savings adds up to a big impact in the long run and sets a good example for our students.”
The District plans to fund the not-to-exceed $8.7 million solar project with bond funds and grants, and will be applying for a federal rebate which would reduce the total cost by approximately 30%. The annual savings, once the panels are installed and functioning, could be up to $400,000, which is nearly half of the average annual amount spent on energy.
The District also has applied and qualified for Southern California Edison’s Net Energy Metering 2.0. This billing plan calculates the energy produced, minus the energy consumed, to come up with a total amount of net energy. SCE then deducts the net energy exported to the grid at times when generation exceeds on-site demand. Through this program, the District may earn surplus credits for the energy it produces.
Depending on the approvals and procurement process, SPUSD plans to phase the project in during the 2024 calendar year. Typical of school site projects, planners will consider all times when students are present and will schedule the work with the least amount of disruption to students and staff. Once installation has begun, the projects typically involve a short timeline depending on the locations and types of panels being installed.
Additional information about SPUSD’s solar panels project will be shared as plans progress.