BONNY DOON — The 66-year-old Bonny Doon Elementary School is looking at the sun for an energy boost.
More than 100 solar panels are getting bolted to the roof during the next two weeks as part of a partnership between the small Santa Cruz Mountains school and Monterey Bay Carbon Fund, a new program of the nonprofit The Offset Project.
Principal Stephanie Siddens said the panels are expected to produce 90 to 95 percent of the school’s power, and save nearly $350,000 in electricity costs over 25 years.
The school, with 127 students in grades K-6, should see a 10 percent savings in its electricity bill in the first year, Siddens said.
“Our electricity bill is more than $1,000 a month,” she said. “The monthly lease payment for the panels is less than our electricity bill; it’s $895 a month.”
Bonny Doon Elementary, a one-school district, has financed the solar panels manufactured by SunPower with a $122,000 loan that Siddens said she expects to pay off in five years.
The cost of the panels was subsidized by Monterey Bay Carbon Fund and several partners, including RC Cubed and Cabrillo College.
The project offered two Cabrillo construction-management students job training in solar installation and financing.
The project was initiated a few years ago when Siddens was new to the school.
She said she received an email from Ana Marie Rebelo, the county’s sustainability program coordinator, asking if the school might be interested in working with the Monterey Bay Carbon Fund.
After several years of delays and working with California’s Division of State Architect, which oversees all school construction, Bonny Doon Elementary got the green light to install the panels this fall, Sidden said.
The Monterey Bay Carbon Fund supports regional projects that reduce greenhouse gas emissions, said Kristin Cushman, founder of The Offset Project.
Siddens said the panels are a perfect fit for a school such as hers that is focused on teaching kids science and the environment.
Bonny Doon Elementary puts emphasis on the environment by encouraging students to bring reusable containers for their lunch items and transporting students in a bus fueled by propane.
“Our school is focused on lessening our impact on the environment,” Siddens said.
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