Bay Area School District Integrates Solar Power With STEM Education

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On April 28, Berryessa Union School District (BUSD), which operates ten elementary (grades K-5) schools and three middle (grades 6-8) schools in Berryessa in San Jose, held a groundbreaking ceremony at its Piedmont Middle School. The event was to commemorate the inauguration of a district-wide initiative to install solar energy and integrate it with the school’s STEM education program.

sun_schoolThe goal of the initiative, paid for through “Measure L” bond funding, is to install a total of 2.4MW of solar energy at all district sites. OpTerra Energy Services, an engineering consultant and design firm and a subsidiary of ENGIE, an energy efficiency services provider, plans to install the systems, which consist of solar shade canopies and ground-mounted units, at all 13 schools and at the district office. These installations will take on from 80 to 90 percent of planned electric load by site, and is expected to result in a 15 percent reduction in overall energy use. It is also intended as a means of environmental stewardship through GHG emission reduction.

Measure L is a bond issue, approved by voters in November 2014, targeting repairs and improvements to district sites. In March 2015, the BUSD leadership had set project goals regarding energy saving, renewable power, energy education and financial impact. It chose OpTerra Energy Services as its partner on the project. A district-wide assessment and analysis was conducted by BUSD and OpTerra of all sites and district property to identify the best opportunities for solar energy generation.

Meanwhile, the OpTerra education team is partnering with principals and teachers across the district. The result of this collaboration will be to use the solar production data as a means of direct STEM learning for students. Educational offerings will be customized to support different grade levels across the district. The entire program is on schedule, though the process took only about a year. (OpTerra’s presentation can be found here.)

Said District Superintendent Will Ector, “Our goal for our new solar program is to set the bar for sustainability at districts across the region. We are proud that as a result of this program, Berryessa’s ability to conserve energy will be complemented by a natural fit education tie-in. The benefits of our solar program are both immediate and long-term, empowering our students, staff, and community to support Earth Day, every day.”

In order to avoid any disruption to classes, solar canopy construction will not begin at school sites until summer.

 

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