Public Sector


South San Francisco Unified School District

South San Francisco Unified School District
"It has been a joy to work with OpTerra to modernize classrooms, install new solar systems, and implement advanced, high-efficiency stadium lighting in our District. We are grateful our partnership helps us support student achievement with STEM learning opportunities which have promoted a culture of sustainability and energy consciousness across SSFUSD as we reduce our carbon footprint."

Michael Krause

Assistant Superintendent of Business Services

The Opportunity

South San Francisco Unified School District (SSFUSD) is continually seeking ways to enhance facilities with sustainability initiatives and drive improvements in the learning environment. Since 2010, the District has worked with locally-based OpTerra Energy Services to develop an integrated energy efficiency, STEM education, and solar power program to help lower its utility costs, while making efforts to further modernize classrooms and support student achievement. In the latest chapter of the relationship, SSFUSD has championed the makeover of the El Camino High School athletic field, installing LED stadium light fixtures on the field for the first time while expanding the District's portfolio of on-site renewable energy. SSFUSD continues to showcase its commitment to fiscally responsible and sustainable solutions that save money, create local jobs, and inspire students through project-based learning activities.

The Partnership

In September 2010, OpTerra partnered with SSFUSD to help the District explore a far-reaching energy program that would have a positive impact on STEM initiatives as well as on the District's energy profile. OpTerra designed and implemented numerous energy conservation measures that translated to robust education opportunities around sustainability science, including professional development trainings for over 150 teachers. District schools benefited from upgrades to lighting, HVAC and irrigation systems, providing improved lighting quality and indoor comfort, and reducing utility and maintenance costs.

After years of collaboration, the District and OpTerra are now entering a new chapter of collaboration to support the District's strategic vision, including additional solar installations, interior/exterior LED lighting retrofits, and the installation of brand new LED stadium lighting at El Camino High School's Colts Field. In tandem with these ongoing energy improvements, the partnership continues to deliver on the impactful, district-wide STEM educational programming that was started during initial phase of work. In addition to the myriad of facilities benefits, this phase of work will create 30 jobs for the skilled local San Mateo workforce and deliver over $2 million in energy savings back to the General Fund over the program's lifetime.

Focus on STEM

In June 2016, SSFUSD and OpTerra collaborated to launch the District's first-ever Summer STEM Institute, demonstrating the District's commitment to being a leader in STEM disciplines for student success in high school, college, and 21st century careers. The program, focused on serving students in Grades 2-8, provided direct hands-on STEM activities, real-world relevance, and project-based learning experiences to over 400 students and 15 teachers from schools across the District.

Students in Grades 2-5 participated in a four-week program which included building energy transformation machines, engineering solar ovens, designing and testing wind turbine blades, and conducting classroom energy audits. For Grades 7-8, a two-week program was offered to two cohorts of students, and both programs together totaled 120 hours of curriculum. Activities for the 7th and 8th Graders included building Rube Goldberg machines, designing circuit mazes, and designing, building, and testing efficient homes.

South San Francisco Unified School District

The Impact

By the end of 2017, SSFUSD will have installed a total of 2.032 MW solar PV capacity, implemented high-efficiency energy technologies across the District's campuses, reduced its energy expenditures by over 75%, created over 80 local green jobs for the San Mateo workforce, and transformed the Colts Field. Over the past six years, the District has created engaging STEM learning opportunities that make the broader energy program come to life for students and teachers. With its solar installations, energy efficient technology, and a culture of sustainability, SSFUSD has turned its campuses into enriching living laboratories that help to promote environmental awareness and energy consciousness.

The Technical Scope

Phase I
  • Installed 1.68 MW of solar PV capacity at all 15 schools
  • Upgraded to high-efficiency lighting at 10 school sites
  • Upgraded HVAC and boilers at two sites
  • Installed new energy management systems at all school sites
  • Installed irrigation control systems at all school sites
  • Installed new roofs at three schools
Phase II (In Progress)
  • Install new LED stadium light fixtures at the El Camino High School athletic field
  • Retrofit 1,822 interior/exterior lighting fixtures with LEDs
  • Install 352 kW of additional solar PV capacity at three sites
Program Timeline Phase II

South San Francisco Unified School District

South San Francisco Unified School District
SSFUSD District leaders and the OpTerra team held an LED stadium lighting groundbreaking event at El Camino High School.