There is no better place to plant the seeds for the expanded use of renewable power by future generations than in a school environment. School officials and corporate leaders in the San Francisco Bay Area embraced the concept recently when they announced a public-private partnership for solar power and energy efficiency.

The Milpitas Unified School District launched its collaboration with Chevron Energy Solutions and Bank of America to construct a 14-site program across the district that will supply 75 percent of the district’s total annual electricity needs through solar energy.

The 3.4-megawatt solar installation will generate what is being touted as the highest percentage of solar power for any K–12 school district in the United States. It will supply 100 percent of the district’s power during the peak-demand summer months, when electricity needs are greatest in California.

Chevron Energy Solutions (CES), a unit of Chevron, will construct parking canopies and shade structures mounted with solar photovoltaic arrays at 13 schools and one district site. CES will provide maintenance for the solar power system as well as measure and guarantee its performance. CES also will install energy management software on the district’s computers to improve energy efficiency.

Bank of America, through Bank of America Leasing Energy Services team, structured and provided financing for the project as part of its $20 billion environmental initiative. The California Solar Initiative and other incentives offset the overall cost of the program by $4.2 million.

The program benefits the district and school community in a number of ways. First, it is designed to reduce the district’s energy costs by more than 22 percent and will result in $12 million in savings for the district’s general fund over the life of the solar power system, while providing positive cash flow and budget predictability through known energy costs. Also, by lowering the district’s purchase of utility power, the project will reduce carbon emissions by an estimated 23,600 metric tons. It also will serve the purpose of education by providing an on-site laboratory for alternative energy and energy science education. Finally, the new solar-paneled structures will provide comfort in the form of shade for people and cars.

The project is scheduled to be completed by the end of 2009.