According to the publication, "Grid Neutral: Electrical Independence for California Schools and Community Colleges”, going Grid Neutral isn’t a challenge, it’s an opportunity.
What is a Grid Neutral School? A grid neutral school is any school that produces at least as much electricity as it consumes in a year.
Where can I get one? Any school can become Grid Neutral. But as with most construction involving schools, it usually comes down to the funding. That’s where this guide comes in. The SCSA (California's State & Consumer Services Agency) released this free publication, a 49-page, step-by-step guide on how to cut energy costs via on-site electricity generation.
State Government is going proactive by encouraging all California schools to “go off grid”. As explained in an excerpt of this guide, the case for going Grid Neutral is clear. “It is an opportunity to lock in electricity costs to provide financial predictability for your district and to lower energy bills… And, if structured properly, it can all be done with no capital costs to your district.” David F. Thorman, California State Architect goes on to note, “Electricity costs represent the key element of the business case for schools and colleges going grid neutral. Imagine and sometimes more. Then imagine what you can do with money not spent on electricity. If a school district pays $6.2 million to its utility company per year, this might be used to hire more new teachers or purchase more than 104,000 textbooks, or buy 6,200 computers. Any one of these expenditures contributes directly to the district’s mission of educating our children.”
An example in action: At the Contra Costa Community College District in California, Chevron Energy Solutions is installing a 3.2-megawatt system comprising photovoltaic panels mounted on 34 parking canopies at three campuses. The project is the highlight of a multi-facility energy-efficiency and solar program that is expected to save the district more than $70 million over 25 years.
But saving money isn’t the only major benefit: Eshone Energy recently installed a 103-kw system at the Washington Elementary School in Berkeley. Fully funded through a combination of state modernization grants, federal bonds, PG&E rebates and local school bonds, this school is now reducing green house gasses by 721 tons during the life of the system.
Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger got the ball rolling back in 2004 when he signed Executive Order S-20-04, which required schools to become resource and energy efficient. Two years later came the Global Warming Solutions Act (AB32), mandating reduction of CO2 levels set within a specific timetable. The state began compiling information in 2007 and 12 months later, the Grid Neutral Schools guidebook was released.
Schools have been somewhat late jumping aboard the renewable energy bandwagon but it’s understandable as California schools are aging and most funds till now have been allocated to fixing existing buildings. Now, schools can utilize this guidebook to get them started.
The Grid Neutral guidebook details the various renewable energy solutions available to
schools; from both a power and a thermal perspective. Perhaps more importantly, it details the
different funding options, including Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs) and state
Last, but never least, becoming Grid Neutral also offers huge learning opportunities for children:
- Hands-on experiments and curriculum provide discovery moments by allowing students to see, hear, and experience energy generating technologies.
- Kiosks and reporting tools, complete with renewable energy systems, provide students opportunities to calculate energy production and greenhouse gas emissions, and compare data with other schools.
- Outdoor and weekend activities reinforce math and science components of renewable energy systems.
- Locate signs next to renewable energy systems describing their components and identifying their function.
- Install signs to encourage energy conservation measures, like reducing plug loads.
- Provide energy-awareness training for teachers and students.
With President Obama newly installed in the White House, it’s already
evident he’s an avid supporter of energy independence while preserving our
planet’s natural resources.
Becoming Grid Neutral is certainly achievable and definitely affordable.
Solar Power is a powerful means to achieve Grid Neutrality.