Chula Vista solar microgrid to save school district $70 million

Oct. 14, 2022
The Chula Vista Elementary School District in California has installed an 8.1 MW solar microgrid, expected to save $70 million over the next 25 years.

The Chula Vista Elementary School District in California has installed an 8.1 MW solar microgrid that is expected to save the district $70 million over the next 25 years.

Located in metropolitan San Diego, Chula Vista is one of California’s largest elementary school districts. More than 28,000 students pass through the doors of 50 schools each year. Forty-six of those schools are now home to solar panels powering the districts’ new microgrid.

School microgrids educate and save money

The solar microgrid project is just one of the efforts the district has made to reduce its carbon footprint and its energy costs. Chula Vista deputy superintendent Oscar Esquivel said, “Our team has done an outstanding job of continually finding ways to increase energy efficiency and savings while doing our part to improve the environment.”

He adds that one of the district’s goals is to model the importance of energy awareness, conservation, and sustainability for its students.

The $32 million solar microgrid project was funded by a general obligation (GO) bond, a type of municipal bond, and was completed by ENGIE North America.

The system includes battery storage and 18,050 solar panels, which are shading school buildings, the Transportation Yard, and the Education Service and Support Center.

Reduces utility draw

The microgrid controller is located at the Education Service and Support Center. The system is designed to provide electricity to the district during peak hours, which will reduce the energy drawn from San Diego Gas & Electric’s (SDG&E) electric grid when prices and demand are at their highest.

The system will also provide backup power to the district’s IT Department and the child nutrition freezer in case of a grid outage.

“In addition to this technology serving as a critical resource during potential power outages, the bigger picture impact of the district’s move toward sustainable energy ensures long-term financial savings and resiliency,” said Stefaan Sercu, managing director Energy Solutions Americas at ENGIE.

Elsewhere in California…

Other California school districts are also pursuing microgrids. The Kern High School District in Lake Isabella issued a request for qualifications in August. Last year, the Santa Barbara school district signed a power purchase agreement with ENGIE Services for six solar microgrids.

In Chula Vista, deputy superintendent Esquivel says the district expects to ultimately be able to meet 90 percent of its energy needs with the solar microgrid. “That is a tremendous amount of energy—and savings for our district. This is a ‘green’ project both environmentally and fiscally.”

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About the Author

Kathy Hitchens | Special Projects Editor

I work as a writer and special projects editor for Microgrid Knowledge. If you’re presenting at a Microgrid Knowledge conference, you can expect to hear from me at some point! I have over 25 years of writing experience, working with a variety of companies in the entertainment, education, and financial industries. For the past five years, I’ve focused exclusively on recreational vehicles, electric vehicles, and the renewable energy industry, where I’ve written about utilities, solar, and wind energy companies (I like to keep things diverse!). I have a BFA in Media Arts from the University of Arizona and a MBA from the University of Denver.

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