SunPower Maximizes W. Sonoma County Union HS District’s Savings

Over the next 25 years, the solar system will save the district approximately $9 million. That means more teachers’ jobs can be kept and the quality of education for students will be protected thanks to solar power provided by SunPower and RGS Energy.”

– Keller McDonald, Superintendent, West Sonoma County Union High School District

The West Sonoma County Union High School District (WSCUHSD) had been hit hard by budget cuts and needed a way to save money and address rising energy costs. A solar power project could do both, and with voter approved bonds, the school district received the capital improvement funding to make a solar project a reality.

SunPower’s 2010 Commercial Dealer of the Year, RGS Energy, won the school district contract, and in only four months, the school district had a combined 834kW of solar power at three high schools. With SunPower® high efficiency solar panels offering the highest solar energy production available, the school district will save more than $9 million over the life of system. This savings will help prevent further job cuts and protect students’ quality of education for years to come.

Solar Brings General Fund Relief

In the five years up to 2011, the West Sonoma County Union High School District (WSCUHSD) had cut 10% of all teaching positions and 32% of administrative and district office staff positions. The school district badly needed relief for its general fund to prevent further job cuts. A solar power capital improvement project became an obvious solution to protect against rising utility costs, and the school district succeeded in getting a bond measure approved by voters for solar power. “With schools continually facing budget cuts, this is a great example of a district taking control over its financial future. Solar power was clearly the best return on investment for the school district’s bond money,” said Tyson Grul, Director of Commercial Solar at RGS Energy.

SunPower Solar Panels Maximize Energy, Minimize Land Use

The WSCUHSD wanted a solar project that offered the best possible return on investment, but the district had limited space for solar panels. RGS Energy put forth a bid with SunPower’s high efficiency solar panels. These solar panels produce more electricity per square foot than other solar panels, and consequently, they require less land. That meant fewer carports, less concrete, and shorter electrical conduit runs. Those reductions created additional cost and time savings. SunPower and RGS Energy’s combined histories of successful solar installations and performance guarantees made the decision easy for the school district.

SunPower Solar Offers Long-Term Savings

In less than four months, 834kW of solar power came online for three high schools. SunPower worked closely with RGS Energy to ensure on-time delivery and verification of the solar panels. Now, the solar system will meet 75% of the electricity demands at Analy, El Molino, and Laguna High Schools. Saving the school district approximately $297,500 in its first year of operation, the solar system will give the WSCUHSD the budget relief they need and help protect students’ education for the long-term.

Project Overview

Location:    3 high schools in Northern California:

  • Analy High School
  • El Molino High School
  • Laguna High School

Completed:    September 2011
Installation Type:    Solar shade structures and ground mounts
System Size:    834kW
PV Surface Area:    45,800 sq ft
Number of Panel:    2,608
Products:    SunPower® E19 Series 320 Solar Panel
ARRA (manufactured in Milpitas, CA)

Benefits
  • Will save approximately $9 million over the next 25 years
  • Will provide approximately 75% of the electricity needed for Analy, El Molino, and Laguna High Schools
  • Will produce electricity equivalent to powering 300 homes annually
  • Predicted to offset 16 million lbs (8,000 tons) of carbon dioxide emissions over 25 years