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School board signs solar contract
BARSTOW • The Barstow Unified School District should be seeing lower electric bills as early as next summer, after the school board approved a contract to install solar panels in a power-purchasing agreement gaining popularity in government entities.
In a unanimous vote, the BUSD School Board approved the contract with SolarCity at a special board meeting Wednesday. The contract guarantees a certain amount of energy production and should save the district a projected $6 million in utility costs over the next two decades.
“When we brought this to the board, they were very excited at a proposal that harnessed our biggest resource in the desert, which is the sun,” Superintendent Jeff Malan said. “That and the instant savings that we are going to receive from this as soon as they go online is going to benefit our district as a whole and our students in general when it comes to reduced costs, which can in turn go directly back to our students.”
In the 20-year contract, SolarCity will pay to install solar panels on seven schools and the district campus — posing no upfront costs to the district. SolarCity will then sell the solar energy back to the district for a lower price than what the district currently spends on electricity from Southern California Edison.
Panels will be going up at Barstow High School, Barstow Junior High School, Central High School, Henderson Elementary, Crestline Elementary, Montara Elementary, Cameron Elementary and the district office.
The board chose to start with eight sites that presented the most cost savings with solar energy, Malan said, though they might consider adding other school sites down the road.
Construction on the solar panels should begin in December and be completed by April or May.
Before that, the district is organizing community meetings to address any concerns students, parents or others might have about the contract and construction.
Solar panels are already on school campuses in other High Desert school districts, such as Apple Valley Unified, which installed panels at four schools, costing the district $12 million.
“It became a very viable solution and it was a very simple decision when it came to going in that direction,” Malan said. “We live in the desert, so it was real simple.”
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