Bakersfield College is going even greener over the next 20 years with the installation of a second solar parking lot canopy.
Following last week's Kern Community College District board meeting, the district has entered into a 20-year agreement with solar company ForeFront Power for the Solar and Battery Storage project. The term is from Oct. 10 through Dec. 31, 2039 and will cost the district more than $9.1 million. The cost will be offset by electricity savings from utilities and will be paid from an unrestricted fund, according to district documents.
ForeFront Power will construct a solar canopy in the campus' southern parking lot. Similar to the solar array parking lot on BC's northeast side, this canopy will provide shade, LED lighting and reduce light pollution, according to Brian Taylor, ForeFront Power director of California Public Sector.
Ground mounted solar panels will also be installed near the parking structure in addition to batteries for energy storage.
This project will give out about 2.6 megawatts of power. The current solar array gives out about 1 megawatt.
"The power generated feeds into the college’s electrical grid. It will be used to power the entire campus facility," Taylor explained. "We’re expecting it’ll provide 75 percent of the energy consumed campuswide."
Construction is expected to be completed in 18 months. The project is anticipated to save BC more than $2.7 million over the course of 20 years.
Mike Giacomini, vice president of finance and administrative services at BC, said one of the college's goals is to be more sustainable, and there have been a variety of improvement projects and changes implemented to achieve that. Some changes included installing artificial grass at Memorial Stadium to reduce water usage, utilizing drought tolerant landscaping and swapping out paper towels with air dryers in bathrooms.
He believes solar is just another way to reduce the college's footprint.
The northeast solar parking lot was installed in 2010 by SunPower Corporation. Giacomini said the college saw a "significant drop" in its electricity bills, but BC soon needed more than just 1 megawatt.
"We’ve got a lot of buildings here, we consume a lot of energy," Giacomini said. "To add another 2.6 megawatts is extremely advantageous. It helps from a sustainability standpoint in not using sources that are finite."
The next steps the college will make is meeting with the solar company to finalize plans and have the designs approved by the state.
With a good chunk of energy anticipated to be covered by solar power, Giacomini is looking forward to the college potentially stretching more tax dollars in the educational front thanks to savings.
BC isn't the only school in Bakersfield to utilize solar panels. ForeFront Power worked with Bakersfield City School District in 2016 to install 1.7 megawatts of capacity at five school sites. It later expanded to 2.3 megawatts of capacity at 10 schools.
A single ground mounted installation at Zephyr Lane Elementary School was able to power both its campus and Shirley Lane Elementary School in the Fairfax School District in 2015.