The Huntington Beach City School District has slashed its electric bills in half and expects to save more than $15 million over the next 25 years in electricity.
The lower bills, which have even had a negative balance at times, come thanks to solar upgrades that have been underway for the past two years, said Jon Archibald, the district's assistant superintendent of administration services.
The district replaced internal and external lightings at all of its nine schools, and the new lights demand less energy. The district also replaced the heating and air conditioning equipment at two campuses, Archibald said.
But the biggest part of the project is the solar panels the district installed at five school sites.
Solar panels use the energy of the sun to provide electricity and now provide about half the energy the schools usually use. During the summer months when schools are normally out, the panels produce more energy, but the district doesn't lose out on the benefit, Archibald said.
"During the time when our schools aren't in session, we actually produce more power than we need," he said. "That goes back onto the grid and we get credit for it."
The panels not only save energy but also serve as shades for lunch tables and some parking spots, Archibald said.
The district took advantage of low-interest bonds and incentives from solar initiative rebates to build the panels.
From a budget standpoint, the project made a lot of sense, Archibald said.
"We know that the cost of electricity is going to keep increasing through the years," he said.
But the project is also beneficial from an educational standpoint.
The district is working on incorporating solar panels and green energy into science classes because it's a growing employment field, Archibald said.