La Cumbre Junior High School
La Cumbre Junior High School in Santa Barbara soon could be home to solar panels and vehicle charging stations. (Joshua Molina / Noozhawk photo)

The Santa Barbara Unified School District is embarking on a massive solar energy plan that could result in the installation of 14,000 solar panels across several district campuses.

The district plans to install the panels at 15 school sites, along with vehicle charging stations and battery storage centers.

Eventually, the district hopes to generate about 94 percent of its energy from solar power.

The school district issued a request for proposals on May 19, and the deadline for companies to submit is June 25. The district plans to interview the finalists on July 9 and look to approve the contract by Aug. 25. Construction is set to begin in the fall of 2021, with project completion in December 2021.

Superintendent Cary Matsuoka said at a recent school board meeting that the solar industry has taken a hit in the pandemic.

“We are going to get some competitive prices,” Matsuoka said.

Instead of getting energy from Southern California Edison, the school district plans to enter a power purchase agreement, which is like a lease agreement.

The agreement would last for 25 years, Matsuoka said. The district pays about $1 million annually for electricity.

“There’s no inflation factor on that electricity for 25 years,” Matsuoka said.

Car-charging stations would be installed at Santa Barbara High School, Dos Pueblos High School, San Marcos High School and La Cumbre Junior High.

Matsuoka said it is difficult for people to find a car-charging station. 

“It is kind of a desert out there to charge a car,” Matsuoka said. “You have to hunt around for a charging station.”

The district plans to install 215 charging stations.

“As the birthplace of the environmental movement, it is time for us to lead and be an example to our students, our community and our nation,” Matsuoka said. “It is my belief as superintendent of SBUSD that climate change is the next global challenge to solve, and I am pleased that we can be part of the solution.”

Board president Laura Capps said she is excited about the proposal.

“It’s ambitous, it’s bold,” she said.

Noozhawk staff writer Joshua Molina can be reached at Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.