Sitting high up on a hill overlooking the San Francisco Bay, Visitacion Valley Middle School is located in a sunny spot just south of the Mission District. The school is dedicated to creating a positive learning environment and an empowered community focus that builds successful futures for its students. The SFPUC is helping to power that mission through the recent installation of new rooftop solar array, which will energize many of the school’s daily activities now that classes are back in session.
In 2008, the San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD) committed to a goal of achieving carbon neutrality by 2040. The SFPUC is an active partner in helping SFUSD achieve this goal, providing 100% clean electricity to all schools through its Hetch Hetchy Power program. While the electricity being supplied to school buildings is clean, many buildings still rely on natural gas for other energy needs. Solar arrays offer a path to greater decarbonization. Expanding the use of solar panels on school rooftops could reduce SFUSD’s natural gas use by 50% by 2030, and Visitation Valley Middle School’s new solar array is the latest effort in achieving SFUSD’s carbon neutrality goals.
As a public power utility, SFPUC owns and operates numerous solar installations in San Francisco, which collectively generate 8.5 megawatts of solar energy. The new solar array installation at Visitation Valley Middle School will provide 98.8 kilowatts of electricity to the school site. The system was installed by SFPUC’s Utility Field Services team in time for the return to in-person learning this Fall.
Visitacion Valley Middle School will be the seventh new school solar array installed since 2012 when SFUSD and the SFPUC first partnered to install affordable solar systems. Visitacion Valley Middle School will join the following solar powered schools: Alvarado Elementary School, Thurgood Marshall High School, Downtown High School, Cesar Chavez Elementary School, Starr King Elementary School, and Burton High School.
“The San Francisco Unified School District is committed to leading the fight against climate change, both to inspire its students to take personal action as well as to reduce its utility and fuel costs so that more funding is available for the classroom,” according to the District’s Carbon Reduction Plan. “As it seeks to reduce its environmental footprint, the District knows that students will benefit through heathier learning environments, lower pollution levels around schools, and opportunities for curriculum and career integration.”
Providing clean, public power for San Francisco public schools has demonstrated what’s possible when San Francisco public agencies collaborate to achieve shared goals. Through rooftop solar arrays like the one at Visitacion Valley Middle School, SFUSD will reduce its energy costs and be able to invest more resources in the classroom, while tackling climate change and helping to create a better, cleaner community and future.
To learn more about publicly-owned solar power in San Francisco, visit sfpuc.org/powersystem.