20 Aug 2014
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SSFUSD Energy Improvements Nearly Complete

South City students head back to schools with brand new solar panels and ventilation systems. They might not notice, but the district's budget will. Energy cost savings will become apparent this year, and plans for the next phase are now in the works.

SSFUSD Energy Improvements Nearly Complete

South City's $162 million bond measure that passed in 2010 will start to pay off this fall.

All but one of South San Francisco Unified's schools now have functioning solar panels that will contribute to the schools' energy usage, as a result of construction this summer.

A roof at is still being replaced before panels can be installed.

South San Francisco Unified School District Superintendent Alejandro Hogan expects the Baden project to be finished in two weeks, at which point, Phase I of the Measure J Bond school improvements will be complete.

Several schools, such as Ponderosa, South San Francisco High, and Monte Verde Elementary, have panels on roofs; Parkway Heights Middle School and now have panels on adjacent hillsides. El Camino High's solar panels also serve as roofs in the parking lot on Mission Rd.

In addition to solar panels, several energy efficieny upgrades have been completed, including to schools' lighting, irrigation controls, and heating, ventilation, and air conditioning. 

In total, these upgrades are expected to save the district 60% of its current annual costs for electrical usage. This means the district should see $1 million in general fund savings over the next year and $20 million by 2033.

The upgrade program also qualifies for a $2 million state solar initiative incentive, which will be paid over five years.

The program is expected to reduce the district's carbon footprint by more than 1,500 metric tons annually -- according to the district, an amount equivalent to that sequestered annually by 328 acres of pine forests.

Chevron, the district's partner in the Measure J improvements' implementation, trained several South City teachers in science lesson plans and activities involving solar energy. The energy company has now completed this training, which has also been done in nearby districts.

The South City superintendent said that in three or four months, once the district receives enough energy bills, they will begin to calculate actual cost savings.

Phase II

The next phase of the Measure J school improvements program will be more visible to South City residents. It will include renovations of athletic facilities and school buildings, and in some cases, possibly construction of entirely new schools.

"Everybody's very excited about it," Hogan said. He hopes the district will have the funds and be prepared to break ground next summer. 

"Athletic fields in this district have not been touched in 30 to 70 years," the superintendent said.

Hogan and other district administrators are creating a comprehensive master plan for Phase II that will involve improving football and soccer fields and track facilities. When money begins to come in from the sale of bonds, each piece of the plan is expected to be ready to implement.

The master plan is likely to include replacing old portables with modular units, or semi-permanent structures that look and feel like permanent buildings.

The only negative feedback he said the district has received thus far has been when the solar panels were constructed at El Camino High and trees had to be cut down.

"That was a little bit of a rough time with the community because it changed the way the school looked," he said. Community members came together to execute a landscaping plan for the parking lot to accompany the solar panels.

Hogan hopes the Phase II plan will be completed before November. South City residents will have an opportunity to give feedback on the draft in October.

"It's great to dream what the district will look like in the future," Hogan said. "And your dream will be a reality for generations to come."

Tell us what you think of the new solar panels at your student's school and what you want to see in the Phase II master plan, in the comments below.

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