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School District Advances Net-Zero Energy Initiative

  • This project brings the district one step closer to its carbon neutrality goals

  • Net Metering program helps fund onsite energy generation at each campus with financial credit back from the utility for excess power generation

  • Students benefit from new STEM curriculum on energy and sustainability

solar panels at school to reach net zero through renewable energySchneider Electric, the leader in the digital transformation of energy management and sustainability, announced a new project with the Richland County School District One (Richland One) in Columbia, South Carolina, is implementing a new project to accelerate their goal of achieving Net-Zero energy consumption. The project will maximize the impact of energy upgrades due to be completed in 2022 by adding solar arrays on the roofs of 15 district campuses. The two phases of work will reduce the district’s energy bill by nearly 73 percent cumulatively, guaranteeing Richland One nearly $57 million in energy savings over the next 20 years. The new solar panels will more than fund themselves over their lifecycle and create a strong financial cash flow.

Through an innovative Net Metering program, the district is turning their new solar arrays into an opportunity to generate renewable energy at each campus. In addition to reducing its operational costs through renewable energy, the district will receive financial credits from its local utility, Dominion Energy, for any excess power that has been generated but not consumed, and at the same rate they would have paid to purchase it.

The addition of these solar arrays is the next step in a district-wide comprehensive infrastructure modernization project started in 2020, in order to tackle deferred maintenance and upgrades to HVAC to improve air quality. Energy and operational savings from this initial phase of work plus additional revenue from the renewable energy generation will help fund improvements across Richland One campuses, placing the district in a position to be less reliant on funding from taxpayers to upkeep schools.

“School buildings with legacy equipment were a drain on energy and budgets,” said Justin Shutt, Business Development Manager, Schneider Electric. “We’re pleased to help Richland One truly transform its infrastructure in a way that not only helps achieve their sustainability goals, but also drastically cuts energy costs to free up millions of dollars for other district priorities.”

With this ambitious energy infrastructure project came an opportunity to integrate new STEM curriculum for the district. Lessons about energy generation, conservation, carbon impact and sustainability will be taught in hands-on learning labs featuring the new equipment on each campus.

“STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) is a cornerstone of our curriculum across the district and we are excited to show our students how the earth’s natural resources can be transformed and create such a substantial impact in their lives,” said Miles Hanley, Energy Manager, Richland One. “Our new onsite renewable energy generation program accomplishes several things for the District. 1) It enhances our student’s learning environments. 2) It transforms our budget outlook in a very positive way for years to come. And 3) Provides a STEM educational platform for our students and community.”

Schneider Electric has successfully implemented 850 ESPC projects with our clients, delivering $3 billion in infrastructure modernization and energy savings.

Update: In December of 2021, Richland One won the Association of South Carolina Energy Managers (ASCEM) 2021 Energy Project of the Year and Energy Manager of the Year, awarded to the district’s Miles Hanley. The Energy Project of the Year award is presented to a district that has taken great strides to “improve their energy management system at their facilities by implementing measures to save energy,” as well as, “the innovative use of energy-saving technologies, which improve energy efficiency and save energy dollars." Read more here.