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Proposition 39 Funds Provide Merced Schools Energy Efficiency Upgrades

By Media Office Staff

Elementary schools in Merced have benefitted from energy efficiency upgrades with funds from the California Energy Commission.

During the 2017-2018 school year, the Merced City School District used the money to replace lighting, heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems and install solar panels.

The Energy Commission directed more than $1.7 billion over five years from the California Clean Energy Jobs Act (Proposition 39) K-12 Program to schools to plan and install energy efficiency upgrades and clean energy generation measures. Proposition 39 is a voter-approved initiative that adjusted the corporate income tax code and allocated revenues to school districts for energy improvements to facilities.

New LED lighting and HVAC systems have improved the air quality, student learning experience, and safety at Alicia Reyes, John Muir, Leontine Gracey, and Luther Burbank elementary schools. Other benefits from the brighter outdoor LED lighting have been less vandalism, break-ins, and after school loitering, said Kenneth Testa, facilities manager for the Merced district.

“The new air conditioners are quieter and make classrooms less distracting,” Testa said. “By replacing the outdoor lighting in our campuses with LED, along with all the other energy efficient improvements, our schools are figuratively and literally smarter, brighter, cleaner, and safer.”

The district also used Proposition 39 funds to install additional photovoltaic panels at Leontine Gracey and Luther Burbank elementary schools through a power purchase agreement.

“The kids are overall very happy about the solar panels,” Testa said. “They hang out around and under the shade ask teachers about it a lot, especially when they hear it humming.”

The district received $2.5 million in Proposition 39 funds. The district’s energy efficiency projects are estimated to save $80,234 in energy costs annually, according to the Energy Commission.

“Solar is saving us precious operational funds to use on updating and replacing outdated equipment,” Testa said. “We placed solar arrays in a number of schools in advantageous places like over play yards where kids benefit from additional shade.”

Testa said other schools are eager to implement similar projects after seeing the benefits from the completed projects.

Photo courtesy of the Merced City School District.

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