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California District Installs Solar Energy System for Cost Savings, Educational Opportunities

San Dieguito Union High School District (SDUHSD) of Encinitas, CA, has begun construction on a 2 megawatt solar panel project expected to generate more than 70 percent of the energy required by the two school facilities that will house the project, Canyon Crest Academy (CCA) and La Costa Canyon High School (LCCHS). For the project, the district has partnered with Chevron Energy Solutions, which will build and maintain the solar panel systems that will absorb the sun's rays and convert them to electricity.

The partners broke ground on the project June 16 at Canyon Crest Academy. In addition to the energy the project will provide, which is expected to save the district a total of more than $10 million in utility costs, Chevron Energy estimated the emissions-free energy source will allow SDUHSD to reduce its carbon footprint by about 2,200 metric tons.

"We are proud that this project will provide savings to the district, which is critical in the current economic environment," said SDUHSD Superintendent Ken Noah. "The project also provides an opportunity to use solar power and improve the environment."

The project will also offer a number of educational opportunities, said John Addleman, SDUHSD director of planning and financial management. The installation will extend well into the coming school year, he explained, and students will have a chance to visit the construction sites at the two schools and receive an overview of what a solar energy construction project entails.

The CCA student government is looking into the purchase of a JumboTron LED display, Addleman said, to be installed above the gymnasium on the main quad, which boasts the highest visibility of any site on campus. The display will offer regular updates on the project, its progress, and its ongoing benefits, as well as brief "infotainment" items on the science and application of various aspects of solar energy.

Finally, Addleman noted, once the installation is complete, he expects a wealth of interest among district educators, especially those in the sciences, in integrating the project's ongoing educational potential into the general curriculum, benefitting students' long-term understanding of alternative energy at least as much as the solar panels themselves benefit the district budget on an ongoing basis.

SDUHSD serves several communities in the north coastal suburbs of San Diego, enrolling approximately 12,500 students in nine middle and high schools.

About the Author

Scott Aronowitz is a freelance writer based in Las Vegas. He has covered the technology, advertising, and entertainment sectors for seven years. He can be reached here.