At the annual Green California Schools Summit in Anaheim, California’s State & Consumer Services Agency announced the release of Grid Neutral: Electrical Independence for California Schools and Community Colleges, astep-by-step guideto help California schools and community colleges cut energy costs through on-site electricity generation. The guidebook is the first state-backed, comprehensive program for schools to use to create campuses that generate as much electrical energy as they consume.
“We pulled together the best environmental experts and financial minds to create an easy-to-follow guide for school officials to invest smartly in green technologies and cut their production of greenhouse gases." said SCSA Secretary Rosario Marin. “This guide will help officials navigate both the technical and cost phases of going green.”
In September, the Division of the State Architect (DSA) hosted seven collaborative workshops that brought together experts from across the country in energy, finance, education, non-profit and government sectors to brainstorm the steps to achieving a successful grid neutral school.
The guidebook walks school officials through the steps to creating a school that will balance its use of electricity with energy that is produced on the school campus. Schools are advised on the use of solar panels that convert sunlight to electricity; solar-thermal, where sunlight becomes heat for heating water; geothermal installations that pump ground heat for heating water; and air and wind power.
“The Governor challenged California to reduce greenhouse gases to 1990 levels in 12 years and I believe our schools and community colleges will lead the way on his campaign by going grid neutral,” said Marin.
The guidebook also helps school officials understand the different methods for funding an electricity generation project at a school site. This includes power purchase agreements where a third party, who is able to collect on the tax incentives available, pays for construction of the solar project and monitors its production. Under this type of agreement, the school buys the electricity for equal to or less than market rates and retains the option to purchase the equipment to begin generating their own electricity.
The state has already used these innovative agreements to finance projects at California State University campuses, prisons and mental health hospitals.
In December 2004,Gov. Schwarzeneggersigned Executive Order S-20-04, ushering in the State’s Green Building Initiative. The Executive Order encourages schools built with State funds to be resource and energy-efficient, while creating safer and healthier learning environments.
In 2006, the Governor championed the voter-approved Proposition 1D school construction bond, which set aside $100 million for High Performance “green” projects at California schools.
Last month the Governor signed an executive order to streamline California's renewable energy project approval process and announced his plans to propose legislative language to expand the state's Renewable Portfolio Standard to 33 percent renewable power by 2020.