Berryessa Union SD celebrates successful completion of integrated solar and STEM Program
Tuesday, Oct 18, 2016
Berryessa Union School District (BUSD) marked an important program milestone in its district-wide initiative to empower student success through an integrated solar energy and STEM program, during a community celebration event at Summerdale Elementary School last week. Through a collaborative partnership with OpTerra Energy Services, the District has leveraged its Measure L bond funding to build a comprehensive sustainability program that is now generating renewable energy at 13 school sites. Coupled with the energy work and other school modernizations taking place across the District, Berryessa is working with OpTerra to deliver STEM educational opportunities for students and teachers tied to solar science that will begin rolling out this year. The program is expected to save the district $12.5 million in net energy savings.

Energized Solar Power in Five Months

Following the program ground-breaking in early April of this year, BUSD has worked closely with a San Jose-based team of OpTerra engineers who have designed and developed the best opportunities for solar energy generation across the District.

In just five short months, the OpTerra team has completed construction of solar generation arrays and carports across 13 District sites. Aligned with the beginning of the school year, the OpTerra education team has been partnering with principals and teachers across the District to design hands-on STEM activities using the solar production data as a platform for direct STEM learning that will continue to roll out in the coming months.

District-Wide Modernizations

Following the completion of the implementation phase this month, BUSD’s solar and site modernization plan has accomplished the following:

  • $12.5 million in net energy savings over 25 years
  • 2.4MW of solar at all 13 District sites
  • The combination of solar shade canopies and ground-mounted solar will take on over 75% of planned electric load by site        
  • Construction of multiple flexible instructional spaces, and installation of upgraded classroom furniture and repaving of multiple sites
  • Hands-on STEM education curriculum aligned with Next Generation Science Standards and Common Core State Standards
  • Environmental stewardship through GHG emission reduction

Paving the Way with Community Bond Support

During Thursday’s project celebration, Superintendent Ector and members of the Board of Trustees’ leadership thanked the Berryessa community for support of the 2016 Measure L bond that helped make the breadth of the solar program possible. Superintendent Ector shared that, “Without the vote of support from our community on Measure L, we would not have been able to jumpstart the successes we are celebrating here today. Combined with self-generating energy savings we will see through this large-scale solar program, our bond has enabled us to modernize the learning environment and continue to improve the performance of our buildings for future students to come.”

OpTerra CEO John Mahoney also shared his support for Berryessa’s approach to leveraging their bond to develop the new solar program. “Berryessa USD has shown great leadership maximizing the power of their community-supported bond to develop and deliver a fully-operating 2.4MW solar program in just under five months. This is a testament to the breadth of work school districts across California can do when bolstered by local and statewide funding opportunities from upcoming regional and statewide bonds.”

After the Berryessa USD community “flipped-the-switch” to energize their solar power last week, ongoing improvements will continue to unfold as the new STEM energy education opportunities are rolled out in the current school year.

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