Mt. San Jacinto College officials flipped the switches on 3,200 solar panels Thursday, March 6 that will bring a 20 percent cost savings in electrical energy for the San Jacinto campus and its almost 8,000 students.
The $2.7 million, Measure AA-funded project completion brought the MSJC board of trustees and members of the community to the perimeter of the six-acre solar panel field on the northeast side of the campus to celebrate the occasion. The quick five-month completion of the project surprised college officials with a significant cost savings for the taxpayer and the school. The Measure AA solar project construction began in November 2016 and was completed under budget and in record time.
Superintendent and MSJC Board President Roger Schultz said at the event that the college did not have the general funds to build the desired solar power project because those are operational dollars used pay the teachers and staff. Because of that, he said, they used a portion of the Measure AA school facilities dollars passed by voters in 2014 to bring less costly power to the San Jacinto campus.
“We’re excited to be able to invest in a project that will give us a good return on our investment for the taxpayer and the school and also to be environmentally friendly,” Schultz said. “Being an aging facility, we are able to start down that path of designing buildings that are more efficient and are able to have sustainable energy that can utilize it.”
Before flipping on the switches, guests were treated to light snacks and beverages and were welcomed by Schultz, MSJC Board Chairman Tom Ashley, interim Vice President of Business Services Brian Orlauski and a representative of Borrego Solar Systems that will operate and maintain the solar panels for the school.
Orlauski explained the project will now supply 1.1 megawatt of power and is designed to save $5.4 million in energy costs over 25 years. It is comprised of 3,287 ground-mount tracker solar panels that are expected to produce 2.4 million kilowatt hours of energy a year. Environmentally, it is expected to offset 1,136 metric tons of carbon dioxide, the equivalent to removing 225 cars from the road.
Orlauski said MSJC made some energy saving initiatives like lighting retrofits and air conditioning retrofits through the governor’s Proposition 39 before the solar project came into view.
“This project could save us money and was environmentally friendly,” Orlauski said. “It just made financial sense.”
He indicated that under MSJC’s Master Plan a similar facilities project may be slated at the Menifee campus. Those changes may include a parking garage with a solar array on the roof, a new science and math building and other projects. A Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics building is envisioned at the San Jacinto Campus as well.