Solar Panels - Good for the Environment and Terrific for Cardinal Newman
Over the last several years the Cardinal Newman Buildings & Grounds Committee has worked closely with the Finance Committee to take advantage of several regional and national incentive programs to bring solar technology to the Cardinal Newman campus. In the process, over thirty members of the board of directors and supporting committees evaluated seven proposals, five in great detail. Some plans carried impressive promises that were not well substantiated through reference checks. Others relied on unrealistic expectations that deviated too much from historical price changes imposed by PG&E.
When it became certain last year that there would not be long-term access to the Covered Eating Area shared with the former Ursuline High School, an idea offered by Real Goods Solar (RGS) began to make very good sense. Jason Cotter, ’88 of RGS helped develop a plan that would allow his alma mater to create a new Covered Eating Area and at the same time offer a meaningful example of one of the Seven Themes of Catholic Social Teaching many Cardinal Newman students observe in their Community Based Service Learning (CBSL) projects: Care for God’s Creation.
Sonoma County is blessed to have many sunny days per year. Cardinal Newman is blessed to have space available to provide structures to support solar panels. As Cardinal Newman faced the need to provide an area where students could gather to share their mid-day meal, or a morning break, the committees on Advancement, Finance, and Buildings & Grounds recommended that the board consider a plan to add a solar panel equipped covered eating area to the campus.
Board chair Jeff Bertoli, ’77 invited all committee members to Agilent Technologies to learn of the SunPower solution his company selected to provide shade for the parking lot and electrical power for Agilent. With an additional endorsement from board member Tim Bucher, ’82 who uses SunPower solar panels in his businesses, Cardinal Newman took the plunge.
The students, with help from the Advancement Committee rallied support by focusing their Jog-a-Thon receipts on the project. The B&G Committee guided the efforts to secure various Diocesan and Sonoma County regulatory permissions. The Finance committee worked to help structure a transaction that has these key characteristics for this $1.3 million project:
1)$86,336 down payment. Fully funded by the students through the Jog-a-Thon
2)NO Negative Cash Flow. The $6K per month payment matches the $6K per month PG&E savings
3) 25 Year Warranty on SunPower equipment through RGS
4)System Ownership transfers to Cardinal Newman in 14 years
5)Total Positive Cash Flow of $1,976,135 over the life of the project
6)$749,500 Net Present Value of Positive Cash Flow
In addition to helping to protect the environment, as the seventh of the Themes of Catholic Social Teaching guides us, Cardinal Newman is creating a new Covered Eating Area for the benefit of Cardinal Newman students for years to come.