Manteca Unified is looking at ways to further protect classroom budgets from being eroded by future PG&E rate hikes.
And it may happen by installing battery packs similar to what is being placed in Ripon near the Flying J truck plaza in order to capture excess power generated by solar power systems at the district’s various campuses.
Emphasizing that the effort is just in the preliminary stages of being explored, Manteca Unified Superintendent Clark Burke noted the district is concerned about the fiscal impact of continuing PG&E rate increases.
The idea is to capture electricity being generated when demand is not at the highest or minimal during sunny hours before and after school as well as on weekends and store it for future use at campuses.
The district in 2013 started installing solar at 26 campuses. The project at the time was estimated to generate $25 million in savings beyond its installation costs by “banking” what money they would otherwise pay due to PG&E electricity rate increases that have become an annual occurrence.
PG&E is among the highest electric rates in the country. Also substantial rate hikes are in the works to harden the system from wildfires. The 2018 Paradise fire that burned 95 percent of the community’s buildings, destroyed more than 14,000 homes, and killed 85 people that PG&R pleaded guilty to 85 counts of felony manslaughter and efforts to avoid similar catastrophes has significantly increased the size of anticipated rate hikes.
A 2019 analysis by the district showed Manteca Unified was well on its way to exceeding the targeted $25 million savings over three decades. After five years of solar panels being up and running Manteca Unified was saving close to $2.5 million a year.
What happens is after factoring in retirement of the system’s costs, the district is essentially avoiding diverting money from classrooms in larger amounts with each passing year to pay power bills.
The first-year that all of the solar was in place was 2014. The value of the power Manteca Unified used — both solar generated and provided by PG&E — was the equivalent of issuing the for-profit utility a check for $2,172,790. The district paid PG&E $773,468.82 for electricity in 2014.
Rate increases and higher use now has PG&E annual cost to the district pushing $2.5 million. That is also roughly the amount of money the district is now avoiding sending to PG&E thanks to the decision to go solar.
And while power costs go up annually as the district still needs to buy power from PG&E its more of a creep.
Manteca Unified paid PG&E just $17,000 more for electricity in 2019 than they would have five years prior if they hadn’t installed solar at 25 of their 37 campuses plus the district office complex.
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