KyotoUSA approached Berkeley Unified School District (BUSD) in 2006 and described to the District a model for the installation of a renewable energy system that would eliminate Washington Elementary’s annual electricity bill without adding to the District’s operating costs. We believed that our model could be applied in any District where a solar rebate was available. To convince the District to take a serious look at our proposal, we worked with local residents and city staff who had backgrounds in finance, energy, and renewables to show that a 100 kW photovoltaic system – combined with modest energy efficiency improvements and heightened school community conservation measures – could produce all the electricity the school needed.
Once District officials realized the value of solar, something remakable occurred. School officials - without prompting from us - began probing various options to finance the PV system and realized that the school was eligible for State modernization funds which paid for 60% of the cost of the project. The District’s 40% match was made by using the utility rebate and a modest contribution from an existing construction bond. In the end, Washington Elementary got a brand new insulated roof and a 103 kW PV system for a relatively modest investment. This project was a real "barn-raising" effort that brought together city officials, University and school district staff, the school board, PTA members, school children, volunteers from the solar industry and financial sector, and the broader community to promote, develop and refine the project. We’re very proud of all those who pitched in to make the project a rousing success!
Since then, the HELiOS model has been used to produce Solar Master Plans that have helped many school districts in California (Oakland, West Contra Costa, San Leandro, Pajaro Valley, San Ramon Valley, Culver City Schools) to plan for, and install, renewable energy systems that are providing all the benefits that the HELiOS model promises. Many other schools districts are following in the footsteps of these successful Districts.
Washington Elementary's solar system is now showing on YouTube! You can get a great in-depth look at the PV system and how it works.