Salinas >> The Alisal Union School District has embarked on a construction project to upgrade 11 of its school sites that will make them “greener” and more energy-efficient.
“It’s also a good example to the kids,” said Jim Koenig, Associate Superintendent of Business Services at Alisal Union. “We talk a lot about energy conservation and this is just a good example of the school district practicing what we teach in terms of reduce, reuse, recycle.”
The plan is to install 1.2 megawatts of solar panels along with 78 new HVAC units and controls to three of its sites — Virginia Rocca Barton, Frank Paul and the former District office.
The project also calls for 7,729 new interior/exterior LED lighting fixtures to be installed and 1,735 new controls across the 11 sites.
Alisal Union is expected to generate 1,833,637 kWh of clean energy annually, the equivalent to removing the same amount of carbon from the atmosphere as 35,366 trees. The new project will also reduce C02 emissions by 2,139 metric tons annually, the equivalent to removing 458 cars from the road.
Koenig said there is a financial benefit for making the move and the longer the school district continues to go green, the greater the savings.
The entire project will cost a little more than $11.7 million, which will be paid for with savings generated through the use of solar power. The District will reduce its electricity bill by more than $400,000 annually, or more than $10.9 million over the lifetime of the program.
Alisal Union leveraged $2.2 million in California state Prop 39 funding to fund the program and $120,000 in utility rebates and secured funds from a tax-exempt lease purchase. No upfront capital investment was required and the energy savings created from the upgrades will cover financing costs.
“The service on the loan is paid for by the savings that we’re expecting, so why not do it? It’s an excellent way to reduce our carbon footprint,” Koenig said.
The project closeout is scheduled to take place in November but Koenig said there’s always risk when building something. However, he still believes the work will get done before the set deadline.
Caren Perlmutter, education manager at ENGIE Services U.S., wrote in a press release that it didn’t take long for Alisal Union and ENGIE to get the ball rolling working on the project.
“In just a few short months, our ENGIE Services U.S. team has had a fantastic time collaborating with the dedicated faculty and staff at Alisal USD to shape several STEM learning opportunities for its 9,000+ K-6 students,” Perlmutter wrote.
According to a press release issued by Engie, Alisal Union was facing rising energy costs and a tight budget in the fall of 2017. The school district reached out to improve campuses and reduce energy costs while reducing the district’s carbon footprint.
Perlmutter added the foundation of every ENGIE partnership with K-12 districts across the country lies in incorporating standards-based educational opportunities into the district-wide energy programs.
Another key factor in the program is bringing in more STEM: science, technology, engineering and math program to integrate the real-world energy upgrades happening to school campuses across the country.
As part of the project, ENGIE started training Alisal Union educators help bring science and engineering lessons to the classrooms that incorporate the Next Generation Science Standards for California Public Schools, which was adopted to assist teachers in the implementation of the new science standards and to aid in the development of the new science curriculum framework.
Perlmutter wrote ENGIE engaged with more than 50,000 students across the United States in 2017 with STEM-focused, project-based learning through clean energy.
“Since our first professional development session at Alisal in April, we have continued to coordinate with District leadership and staff to develop additional, upcoming sessions that will engage teachers, students, and community members in the science behind the new energy technology happening at all 11 schools and the district office. We’re looking forward to rolling out more updates with the community when students come back to campus this fall,” Perlmutter wrote.
Juan Reyes can be reached at (831) 726-4360