Grand Jury Report: Solar Energy Projects In School Districts

The Contra Costa Grand Jury has issued a report (available here) suggesting ways that school districts can achieve their goals for current and future solar energy projects.

Alternative and renewable energy is being promoted as a way to conserve resources and protect the environment. The State of California and the federal government are promoting the use of solar energy by providing rebates and incentives for those who install solar energy systems. Certain school districts in Contra Costa County have been installing solar energy systems as a way to produce clean energy for their power needs, save money for the district and provide educational opportunities about renewable energy for their students. The Grand Jury evaluated solar energy systems in Martinez Unified School District, Mt. Diablo Unified School District, Pittsburg Unified School District, San Ramon Valley Unified School District and Contra Costa Community College District.

Those five school districts have incurred millions of dollars of costs on solar energy installations with the hope of repaying the cost through grants, rebates and future savings on energy bills. Those five districts have employed various strategies for evaluating options, funding their initial investments, estimating projected costs and savings, selecting vendors, overseeing the installation process, planning for future expenses, monitoring energy production and cost savings, and communicating with citizens. All projects rely on the vendors’ ability to fully meet obligations under long-term performance guaranties and warranties. These issues create potentially significant financial risks for the districts. Certain districts have been more successful than others in protecting the district’s investment and ensuring that their programs are cost effective.

The Grand Jury analyzed the approaches used by the five school districts and identified beneficial actions that can be used by all 19 school districts to help ensure that existing and future solar energy projects achieve their goals.

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