School district seeking bids for solar panels for new high school buildings

STEAM building construction with liquidambar trees on left (Nov. 6, 2019)

Update from PUSD Director of Facilities Pete Palmer:

On Friday, November 15, the Piedmont Unified School District issued a Request for Proposals (RFP) to lease solar panels for the STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Mathematics) building, which is now under construction at Piedmont High School.  The RFP also includes solar panels for the new Performing Arts Center/Alan Harvey Theater, which will be constructed starting this summer.            

The District is committed to creating more energy efficient, modern, and sustainable facilities and reducing its annual electricity bills.  To this end, the District’s Solar and Facilities Master Plans call for the installation of rooftop solar panels on all school sites, although this will take some time to implement.  Phase One is to install these panels on the two new high school buildings, which are expected to open in August 2020 and Fall 2021, respectively.

Both new buildings are designed to be “zero net energy”(ZNE) facilities, meaning that they will be highly efficient and generate enough clean, renewable, solar energy to offset their overall energy consumption. District architects used “sustainability ratings” to evaluate and refine the designs for these buildings. These ratings take into account factors such as building dimensions and orientation, which affect the extent of solar heat gain during daylight hours, the ability to take advantage of natural light and fresh air for ventilation, and the ability to maximize the capture of solar energy in photovoltaic panels.

The solar panel arrays and related infrastructure for both buildings have been fully designed, engineered, and approved by California’s Division of the State Architect (DSA), the agency that reviews and approves plans for public school construction.  The infrastructure is being installed by Overaa Construction. The District is soliciting proposals to lease the rooftop panels and battery storage through a power purchase agreement (PPA).  Under a PPA, the provider would install and maintain the panels and guarantee a certain level of electric output.  In exchange, the District would pay the provider for electric power at a rate that is below PG&E’s rates.  The advantages of a PPA are that the District could reduce its ongoing energy costs without the capital investment of purchasing the panels.  

The PPA model is one option for securing solar panels. The District is also exploring financing options, and may explore private fundraising to purchase these panels.

Proposals are due December 6, 2019.

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