Mount Diablo USD Offsets Electricity Costs by 92% with SunPower

Not only does our solar project model good environmental stewardship for our students, it will also help generate millions of dollars in funding and cost-savings which are critical for our educational programs in these difficult financial times.

– Steven Lawrence, Ph.D., Superintendent, Mount Diablo Unified School District

Mount Diablo Unified School District Installs Solar at 51 Campuses to Save $220 Million Over 30 Years

Over the past five years, devastating budget cuts have made it increasingly difficult to provide a quality education to the children of California. In order to meet their goal of preparing graduates for college and tomorrow’s work force, one local district turned to solar to save millions of dollars. The Mount Diablo Unified School District serves over 33,000 students and beginning next year, will save more than $3 million annually on electricity costs through solar power. These funds will help the district prevent future school closures, maintain a robust arts program at their high schools, and avoid additional cuts to academic programs. To initiate a solar project, the district leadership turned to their local community for help. After the community passed Measure C, a general obligation bond that included funding for solar power, MDUSD went through a thorough Request for Proposal process before awarding the project to SunPower. SunPower’s high-efficiency solutions offered the best long-term cost-savings, and together, MDUSD and SunPower will install 12.1 MW of solar power at 51 sites. In creating the largest school district solar system in the world, MDUSD will save over $200 million during the 30-year life of the system. Freeing that money in the general fund allows the district to protect and enhance the quality of students’ education not just for today but for decades to come.

District Goes Solar for General Fund Relief

With no relief in sight because of the State of California’s continuing financial difficulties, Mount Diablo Unified School District took proactive steps to secure long-term financial relief and protect their students’ quality education. With solar power as an important component of several capital improvement projects in the Measure C bond initiative, the district earned over 60% voter-approval in 2010. The district combined the general obligation bonds with the federal government’s Clean Renewable Energy Bonds (CREBs) to make the solar project even more financially attractive. Once the bond was passed, the district focused on putting together a thorough Request for Proposal with the assistance of the electrical engineering firm, Newcomb Anderson McCormick (NAM). NAM helped MDUSD analyze the submitted proposals and verify the data’s accuracy. After a thorough analysis and interview process, the district awarded the contract to SunPower. Close coordination between the school district and the SunPower team allowed for quick approvals from the Division of the State Architect, and efficient construction proceeded in three incremental phases across the 51 sites while minimizing disruption to classes.

SunPower Partnership Directly Benefiting Students

In addition to tremendous financial benefits, this new partnership between MDUSD and SunPower directly benefits students. SunPower is actively supporting the district’s Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) academic programs with curriculum resources and internships. For instance, SunPower helped develop an engineering curriculum module that fits within the Project Lead the Way framework, enhancing STEM academics at MDUSD’s high schools. SunPower will continue to support the district’s engineering pathway academies that are integrating STEM subjects into the broader education work plan and that are helping students to discover post-secondary education or career options. The result is a solar partnership that saves money and helps educate students in renewable energy in preparation for a fast-changing future.

Solar Already Saving Teachers' Jobs

Even as construction began in 2011, the SunPower solar system started saving jobs. MDUSD foresaw a deficit in the millions for the upcoming budget, but forecasted solar savings and state rebates would allow the district to avoid cutting as many as 80 teaching positions, which would have dramatically increased class-size or forced additional school closures. For the next 30 years, the 12.1 MW solar system will help MDUSD address future budget shortfalls by saving the district more than $200 million. This means that those funds can go where they rightfully belong and help students continue to enjoy the best possible education.

Project Overview

Location:    51 schools in Contra Costa County, CA
Completed:    November 2012
Installation Type:    Parking Canopies
System Size:    12.1 megawatts
Estimated Savings:    $220 Million
Covered Area:    664,683 square feet
Number of Panels:    28,568
Products:    SunPower® Fixed-Tilt Parking Canopy and Shade Structures

Benefits
  • Saves the school district $220 million over 30 years
  • Eliminates 92% of electrical costs for the first year of operation
  • Employs local subcontractors and tradespeople
  • Generates $3 million annually in electricity cost savings and $3 million from California Solar Initiative revenue
  • Employs local subcontractors and tradespeople
  • Offsets 396,094 tons of CO2 emissions over 30 years, which is equivalent to removing 70,450 cars from the road
  • Raises community property values