Each year, Cabrillo Unified School district has paid for solar facilities at Cunha Intermediate School and Half Moon Bay High School. Now, the opportunity has arisen for the district to buy the facilities and save an estimated $100,000 a year. 

About seven years ago, Cabrillo Unified School District entered into an agreement to have Solar City, now Tesla, build solar facilities at Cunha Intermediate School and Half Moon Bay High School. The district is now using bond money to purchase the facilities. 

“It’s more cost-effective over time for us to buy,” Superintendent Sean McPhetridge said. “It saves us operational costs during a time when ... we have to make cuts.” 

The purchase option documents indicate the price will be a little less than $932,000 after tax for the system at Cunha Intermediate School and about $1.7 million after tax for the one at Half Moon Bay High School.

McPhetridge explained that, at the time CUSD agreed to the power purchase agreement, such deals made solar a feasible option for school districts. But now, McPhetridge said, solar is more cost-effective, and the district has the means to purchase the facilities through existing bond money. 

The district is currently looking into ways to use the bonds to store energy and install more solar at more school sites. 

The way the system is currently set up doesn’t allow the schools to maintain power during outages as there is no way to store the energy. That is why the schools were in the dark during PG&E’s public safety power shut-offs despite the ability to generate power. 

“My goal is to have net-zero energy buildings where we can,” McPhetridge said. 

It’s part of a larger vision for the district. Ideas include working with Peninsula Clean Energy to electrify the district’s fleet and install electric vehicle chargers. 

“This is a first step,” McPhetridge said. “It helps us with operational costs, but we want to expand upon that too.”

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