High schools in Mountain View are on the cutting edge of sustainability, and a recent deal inked between the district and an energy storage company marks the latest step towards reducing the district's carbon footprint -- and its electric bill.
The Mountain View-Los Altos High School District approved a deal with Santa Clara-based Green Charge Networks last week that would set up four electric vehicle charging stations -- two each at Mountain View and Los Altos high schools. The stations will have two chargers each, meaning four teachers and other staff members can charge their cars at each campus at the same time.
The district opted for the 240-volt chargers, which take about four hours to fully charge a vehicle, according to Mike Mathiesen, associate superintendent of business services. That means they aren't the fastest car chargers on the market, but it means district staff members can swap out halfway through the school day with a full charge and have others take their spots. It also means the district can avoid the high cost of energy when electricity usage spikes.
"Yeah, you could plug in and charge in half an hour, but then it jacks up our usage and we have to pay for our peak usage time," Mathiesen said.
The deal also means the district will get more energy storage capabilities. Mathiesen said Green Charge will provide what is "essentially a big battery" that the district can draw energy from during peak energy-usage hours, reducing the energy needed from PG&E during the most expensive times of the day.
The batteries are expected to reduce the district's PG&E bill by $5,000 to $10,000 a year -- admittedly not a huge amount, according to Mathiesen, but still money that can be reinvested in the schools.
"I look at it as saving money that can be spent on students," Mathiesen said.
One of the requirements going into the deal for electric vehicle chargers was that it had to be free. Sybil Cramer, faculty member of the Go Green Sustainability Committee, said Superintendent Barry Groves felt that charging stations were cost-prohibitive and would accept a deal only if it didn't cost the district any money.
It just so happened that the Green Schools Conference last March included a special panel on exactly that -- a funding model in which the district wouldn't have to spend anything for the purchase and installation of charging stations. Cramer went to the conference and approached Steve Kelley, vice president of sales at Green Charge Networks, kicking off the partnership with the district that ultimately led to the deal last week.
The gist of the deal is that Green Charge Networks foots the bill for the charging stations and the battery storage, and will make the money back through reductions in the district's energy usage. Polices in California allow for energy reduction to be compensated as energy generation, meaning money can be made by drawing less energy from PG&E. Green Charge Networks will be getting a portion of that money as it rolls into the district.
Greenest schools in the area
The charging stations are just the latest piece in a districtwide effort towards sustainability and energy efficiency. The Mountain View-Los Altos High School District is the only school district in the area where all the facilities are green-certified, including Alta Vista High School, the Adult Education program and the district office, according to Groves.
Mathiesen said Measure A bond money, which was used to pay for new classrooms and energy-efficiency improvements, probably helped the district reach green certification at some of the sites. The $41.3 million bond measure passed in 2010, and helped pay for 24 new, more efficient classrooms, as well as solar panels that are saving the district as much as $500,000 a year on energy costs.
Certification depends on overall energy efficiency, what chemicals are used to clean facilities, whether paper used in the schools contains recycled content, and the types of computer monitors that are used.
Beyond certification, Cramer said, she has her fingers crossed that the new classrooms get LEED silver certification. Given that the new classrooms have energy-efficient heating, lighting, windows and insulation, solar panels and natural day-lighting, the classrooms are expected to make the grade, according to a district report.
Only about $2 million are left from Measure A, which Mathiesen said will go toward redoing the locker rooms and the water boilers that provide heat, as well as retrofitting buildings. He said the district will continue to push toward more sustainability and green initiatives.
"We're always looking for new opportunities to be more environmentally conscious," Mathiesen said.