On Oct. 15, the Lucia Mar Unified School District Board of Trustees made a move that will shoot the district into the world of green energy.
Trustees voted to fund a $14 million energy savings project that will lead to the installation of solar panel arrays at six of the district’s 19 schools and the district office. The project also includes plans to update mechanical systems at the three high schools, reconfigure the irrigation systems at five elementary schools, and install LED lighting in every district-owned building. Work is expected to begin this spring and continue into the 2014-2015 school year.
“Every single site is getting an improvement,” said Jeff Dixon, director of facilities and maintenance for Lucia Mar.
Dixon said replacing the district’s currently used lights with LEDs will save $31,000 per year in maintenance costs alone. LED lights have an expected lifetime of 30 years, while the district’s current lights need to be replaced more often. The light exchange would be the first energy-use transformation, while design plans for the remaining changes are still being finalized.
Raynee Daley, the district’s assistant superintendent of business, said the project would pay for itself and then some over the next 25 years. Energy savings are projected to be an additional $11 million over the cost of the project, which comes to a total savings of approximately 80 percent of Lucia Mar’s projected energy usage without the project.
Two years ago, energy companies started doing walkthroughs of the district’s buildings and pitching ideas of how project costs, improvements, and energy savings would come together financially. Chevron Energy Solutions—a branch of the Chevron Corporation—came out on top.
Daley said one of the positives of working with Chevron is that the estimated cost savings are guaranteed. If the district doesn’t save the energy dollars Chevron projected, the company will cut Lucia Mar a check for the difference.
As a result, Arroyo Grande and Nipomo high schools, Judkins and Paulding middle schools, and Dana and Dorothea Lange elementary schools won out for solar arrays. Fairgrove, Grover Beach, Grover Heights, Nipomo, and Ocean View elementary schools will be getting new, more efficient outside irrigation systems that can be electronically controlled from anywhere with Internet access.
“At all the sites getting solar, there will be a real-time display of energy use versus energy produced,” Dixon said. “It will offer our teachers an opportunity to incorporate some of these projects into the classroom.”