California School District to Save Millions with Solar Carport Systems and Energy Storage

SunPower Helix solar carport
SunPower Helix solar carport. Image courtesy of SunPower.

Colton Joint Unified School District (CJUSD) will be celebrating the upcoming construction of  at 28 schools with a kickoff event at Grand Terrace High School on Saturday, Sept. 24.

The SunPower Helix solar carport systems will generate approximately 6.1 megawatts (MW) of clean energy and are estimated to provide CJUSD with more than $35 million in electricity savings over the next 25 years. On completion, it is estimated that 73 percent of the district’s electricity will be provided through the SunPower Helix solar carport systems. CJUSD will buy power at a competitive rate under a power purchase agreement (PPA) with SunPower and will own the renewable energy credits associated with the systems.

The project also features two key elements of SunPower’s Smart Energy product suite. SunPower will provide 1.1 MW of battery storage systems at seven schools to reduce the district’s demand charges at these sites. SunPower will provide the battery systems under a no-money-down Battery Service Agreement that includes a guarantee of peak demand reductions. In addition to the batteries, SunPower will provide its EnergyLink™ Enterprise energy management software, giving CJUSD powerful insights about its energy use, and accurate reporting about financial savings from SunPower’s solar and storage systems.

“This is a truly great project that will allow us to protect the long-term financial health of the district and redirect tens of millions of dollars in future revenue toward other district priorities,” said CJUSD Superintendent Jerry Almendarez. “It also allows us to set an example of being environmentally responsible and to teach our students about clean energy and sustainability.”

In addition to generating power, the project will also include much-need shade for parking and shelters for students on many campuses. It also reflects the district’s ongoing commitment to both fiscal and environmental responsibility. CJUSD continually works to reduce energy consumption at schools and other district facilities through its energy management program. The district has increasingly moved from more traditional landscaping such as grass to more drought-tolerant designs using elements such as native plants, concrete and artificial turf.

SunPower will install high efficiency direct current (DC) solar panels that are the world’s first solar panels to achieve a Cradle to Cradle Certified Silver designation for the sustainable practices and materials used in their manufacturing.

Construction of the solar carports will take place through 2017, sequenced in three phases to minimize impacts on school operations. Phase 1 schools to be completed by the end of 2016 include Bloomington High School, Grand Terrace High School, Joe Baca Middle School and Ruth Harris Middle School.


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This post was prepared by Solar Thermal Magazine staff.

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