What To Know Before Your District Goes Solar

by Sage Renewables 

How to reduce the risks and increase the value of your project.

More than 25% of California school districts have implemented solar, and over 400 million kilowatt hours of energy are produced by California schools every year—enough electricity to power 75,000 homes!  Is your district next?  Keep these recommendations in mind as you go down the road of joining the renewable energy future.

1-Evaluation

Completing this evaluation requires expert analysis of historical energy usage patterns, making conservative assumptions about future energy usage and utility rates, and performing thorough siting, sizing and modeling of solar arrays for each site under consideration.

In addition to technical expertise, this analysis requires financial expertise to determine whether installing solar at a site will produce a net financial benefit to the district so that investments can be made in school programs from the energy savings produced.

Not every district or every school site within a district is a good candidate for solar energy. This analysis depends on a variety of factors including location, size, usage, enrollment, facility age, and utility rates. On average, districts that Sage works with construct solar on 50 to 70% of school sites, while the remaining sites are financially better off using only grid power.  

2-Contracting

When the evaluation is complete and the best sites are selected, this knowledge is put into a request for proposals (RFP) from solar vendors. Selecting a vendor can be a lengthy and tedious process that requires careful management of the process and significant industry knowledge.

This often includes negotiating the financing for the project, as many solar projects are financed through a Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) with the solar vendor or a third party finance company, a popular model because it requires little to no up-front capital cost for the district.

During this stage, it is necessary to conduct public outreach to educate and inform community stakeholders on the benefits of going solar, and to gain feedback from the public on the impact the construction may have on their community.

3-Construction

Construction begins after the contract is signed and the design of the system is finalized with the vendor. The design is further developed so that the extensive permits and approvals required by the State and local authorities are obtained in a timely fashion. The construction schedule is developed in a way that minimizes the impact to school programs, and further public outreach is done to educate all of the stakeholders on the construction impacts to the school sites and neighborhoods.

Once the project is built, commissioning and testing is completed to ensure that the project performs as designed to produce clean, renewable energy for decades to come.  

Are You Ready?

It may sound like a daunting process, which is why more than 40 California school districts have turned to Sage to evaluate and implement more than 80 MW of solar energy. Every project has unique challenges – don’t face them alone. If you’re considering solar for your district, call Sage.