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By Allison Jarrell

The Capistrano Unified School District Board of Trustees voted unanimously on Dec. 6 to award an $18 million contract to REC Solar Commercial Corporation, a solar energy firm based in San Luis Obispo, for the conversion of six high school campuses and the district headquarters to solar power.

The firm will be responsible for designing and installing the solar panel shade structures. The $18,372,631 contract includes capital cost, performance guarantee, and operations and maintenance.

Previously, at the board’s Nov. 8 meeting, ARC Alternatives, the district’s energy advisor, presented an update on the Request for Proposals process for the solar energy project. The board approved funding for a solar feasibility study back in May, and on July 26, the board heard an update on that study, which found that all of the sites in question are able to accommodate the solar panels.

On Sept. 25, the district released its Requests for Proposals for the solar project. Russell Driver, of ARC Alternatives, reported that the district received 13 proposals on Oct. 20.

The solar project is expected to save about $849,000 a year, for a total of $21 million in savings over a 25-year period, according to CUSD officials. That’s roughly 44 percent of the district’s current utility bill.

Funds for the project will come from the government’s new Clean Renewable Energy Bonds (CREBS) that are available solely for energy projects. Driver told the trustees on Nov. 8 that the goal is for the district’s savings to pay off the debt accrued.

The district’s CREBS budget for the solar contract was $23-24 million.

Members of CUSD Solar Students, a group that has been working for years with district staff on the switch to solar, attended the Dec. 6 meeting to celebrate the next step of the project. The group originally petitioned the school district in February 2016 to install solar panels at each high school campus.

“I am honored to join my fellow students tonight in a project that has taken three years and is at its culminating point,” said student Kyle Krueger, who serves as president of the Tesoro Conservation club. “I’m honored to see the reality of CUSD solar tonight. Through three years of hard work, meeting with solar energy experts, pitching procurement methods and presenting in this great [board] room, we received powerful support for this reality. You will leave a legacy with this vote for an entire next generation of students, parents, teachers, residents and board members who can benefit from this $21 million [in savings].”

WHAT’S NEXT: Deputy Superintendent Clark Hampton told the board that the project will roll out in stages, beginning with installation of solar panels at a few campuses in 2018.

District officials said information regarding the CREBS financing for the project will be presented at the Jan. 24 board meeting.

FIND OUT MORE: More information on the district’s solar project can be found at www.capousd.org. Additional information can be found on the CUSD Solar Students’ website at www.cusdsolar.org.

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