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$4M savings forecast in Wasco high school solar project

The Wasco Union High School District Solar Installation Project is underway, with construction to begin in October. The project should be completed in January 2024 at a total cost of $5.9 million.

The district approved the contract for the project last November. The formal planning and engineering phase began at that time. The final approval at the Division of State Architect is expected this week.

The solar project will be built in the student and staff parking lots at Wasco High School and Wasco Independence High School.

Funding for the project involves the district utilizing a lease-purchase agreement for the solar project.

"There were some upfront costs, but most of the system will be paid for by a monthly lease payment made over 20 years. That lease payment will essentially be paid for with the energy cost savings," WUHS District Superintendent Kevin Tallon said.

The district also expects to benefit from Federal Inflation Reduction Act funding of approximately $1 million to assist with the project.

The project is anticipated to save at least $4 million over 25 years. This cost savings is using a conservative energy escalation projection. If energy costs increase more significantly, the savings will increase.

Tallon said there will be other benefits.

"The school and students will benefit from the cost savings. Converting to solar energy will help reduce and stabilize our energy consumption, thus lowering energy costs significantly."

He added that savings can be invested in hiring additional staff, new academic programs or curriculum, purchasing or updating technology, or introducing new extracurricular programs.

It will also impact the environment – to the good.

"Solar energy allows our district to lower both school's carbon footprint, which has a positive impact on many aspects of the environment."

Several people in the district are leading the project. Martin Lonza, a retired administrator, is advising and providing support to the district administration.

"Michael Adams, the maintenance, operations and transportation director, as well as Nelly Sanchez, the chief business official, and Principals Rusvel Prado and T.J. Yasenchak are involved because of how it impacts the schools with parking and safety."

Tallon said there will be minor short-term disruptions, with each structure taking two to three weeks to build.

"During those windows, students and staff will have to find alternative parking. Both Mr. Prado and Mr. Yasenchak are communicating with students, staff and parents so that they can make adjustments when necessary."

Similar projects locally include the Wasco Elementary School District, which has solar panels at all their schools.

The project was initiated by the Board of Trustees and the district administration in an effort to reduce energy costs and improve energy efficiency in the district.

Engie is an international company in charge of construction.

"They have partnered with many school districts in California. Engie was also the provider for the Wasco Elementary School District."


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