Merced City School District is a public school district located in central California, between San Jose and Yosemite National Park.
Merced City School District secured grant funding through the California Clean Energy Jobs Act (Proposition 39). Using this grant, they issued a competitive RFP for on-site solar for ten sites in 2017.
Merced's goals were to achieve energy cost savings, commit to sustainability, and provide shade for playgrounds and other locations.
These complex projects required overcoming a variety of challenges such as:
- Ongoing school and community activities and associated construction restrictions.
- Close collaboration with school staff, facility management, and community stakeholders.
- A tight construction schedule.
- Regulations from California’s Department of State Architect.
Merced awarded the portfolio to PCI Solar as the project installer. NextEra Energy arranged financing for the project through a Power Purchase Agreement (PPA).
PCI has extensive experience in California solar. Merced cited PCI’s experience building solar carport portfolios, including Petaluma City Schools. PCI's experience includes organizational stability, financial strength, and outstanding safety record.
PCI developed a staged construction process aimed at minimizing the impact on academic activities and maximizing student and staff safety. This process was consistent with PCI Solar's strict internal quality and safety standards. The staged process also achieved completion dates required by NextEra to monetize federal tax credits.
The installation consisted of 17 shade structures ranging from 78kW to 272kW at 10 sites. The total scope of the complete project was 1.5MW DC. MBL designed, manufactured, and installed teh carport structures. These feature Hanwha Q Cell 340 watt photovoltaic modules and Sungrow string inverters.
During 2018, the first full year of operation, Merced’s solar portfolio produced 2196 Megawatt hours of solar energy.
Because these projects were financed through a PPA, Merced spent no capital funds to acquire the solar project. Instead, they simply paid for the solar power produced at a fixed rate below their utility energy costs. This allows Merced’s limited funds to go to core school needs, while making future utility rates more predictable.
The solar arrays also provide critical shade from the intense California sun for students and teachers, and provide more lighting around parking areas, increasing safety. Furthermore, the projects include a weather station at one site, which is being used as a teaching tool for students.