RSF School District Board Tackles Energy Storage

RANCHO SANTA FE — As power rates continue to climb, the Rancho Santa Fe School District continues to discuss alternative ways to save money. During the Oct. 5 monthly school board meeting, Superintendent David Jaffe introduced Bradley Johnson, director of finance, to present his research on battery storage solutions.   

The topic was not a new one for him, Johnson said. At a former school district, he helped bring on a battery storage company to mitigate the high costs of electricity usage.

“I thought it would be nice to check and see if this would be an opportunity for a company to come in and look at our utility usage,” Johnson said, “and to see if there’s an opportunity for implementing some type of intra-storage system to reduce costs.” 

Johnson pointed some of the components to a utility bill including the specific charges that take place during the higher peak times during the day, particularly in the mid- to late afternoon hours. During this timeframe, more electricity is being used, mainly if air conditioning units are on.

The theory behind the storage is that batteries, which are usually lithium-ion batteries, get their power in the evening when the rates are lower. After the energy is stored, it can be used during the day. 

Energy usage during peak times means customers are paying more to use energy. However, a customer could shave those high-peak costs if there was an energy storage solution in place. Johnson said there are potential opportunities for the district to save money.

Two energy battery storage solutions are a direct purchase option as is a power efficiency agreement. 

In the first scenario, the district would pay money up front to procure the battery storage units.

“Each year, you have ongoing operations and a software maintenance fee that you wind up paying on,” Johnson said.

Johnson also wanted the board to know about incentives that the state of California provides some school districts and government entities. It offers some funding to reduce a portion of those initial up-front costs.

A power efficiency agreement is when a company comes in at no cost to the district.

“Essentially, we are allowing them space to provide batteries to the district, and they essentially get a shared savings of whatever we wind up saving,” he said. “So, the overall savings to the district is less, but again we have nothing out of pocket.”

Board member Sarah Neal said that while one of the priorities of the district is to be more energy efficient, she’d like to see more of a strategic planning process by way of having a more in-depth conversation about district goals.

She did say how it was good to learn about technology as it evolves.

Board member Scott Kahn asked Johnson to look at the new SDG&E rate schedule. His concern was that any numbers Johnson had were based upon the current rate schedule and the new rates could very well be less favorable.

The school board thanked Johnson and asked that he continue his research on the matter.

RSF School District Board Tackles Energy Storage, by Christina Macone-Greene, The Coast News Group, November 10, 2017.

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