Huntington Beach City Schools Revs STEM, Saves $16.3 Million with Energy Upgrades

The Huntington Beach City School District (HBCSD) has completed the latest phase in an initiative that will save the district an estimated $16.3 million while enriching science, technology, engineering arts and math (STEAM) education for students.

"In early 2010, HBCSD began what would become a multi-year partnership with OpTerra to transform the district's energy performance through a unique combination of solar and energy efficiency projects across nine schools, in addition to integrating STEAM education opportunities into the broader scope of work," according to a news release. "Leveraging multiple funding sources, including $1.6 million in California Solar Initiative rebates and more recently, $1.4 million in Prop 39 funds, HBCSD administration prioritized building a paid-from-savings program to ensure that the district would have no out of pocket expenses during the development of the large-scale sustainability project."

The district now has 1 megawatt of solar generation across multiple schools which, paired with demand-side management steps, has led to a 70 percent savings in energy costs. The district was able to redirect those funds to academics and initiatives that more directly effect students

Key activities OpTerra's Education Team has helped the district with include:

  • Professional development activities focused on wind, solar, hydro and other energy generation methods with curriculum and in-class guidance for teachers of grades preK-8;
  • The ability to access live energy production data via an interactive website; and
  • A STEM program for students in grade 6 that used hands-on solar science modules as the district expanded from a semester of science to a full year for students in that grade.

"Through our recent completion of the second phase of this innovative sustainability impact project, HBCSD is building a tremendous legacy for taking on an engaged, early action mentality that we know other school districts can adopt to achieve similar success to address environmental and fiscal issues," said Gregg Haulk, superintendent at the district, in a prepared statement.

About the Author

Joshua Bolkan is contributing editor for Campus Technology, THE Journal and STEAM Universe. He can be reached at [email protected].