RGS Energy, a division of Real Goods Solar, and Smart Energy Capital (SEC) are to jointly install 5.1MW of solar power in 18 schools in the Stockton Unified School District (SUSD) in California.

The $20 million project will deploy more than 17,000 solar panels and is expected to save the district $600,000 in the first year.

SUSD is expecting to pay less for solar electricity under a 25-year power purchase agreement (PPA) provided by SEC, a solar development and finance company.

Steve Lowder, SUSD’s superintendent said: "Going solar provides an exceptional real-world learning opportunity by reducing energy costs to free up funds that can be used to improve educational facilities and launch new learning programs for students. We are proud to invest in renewable energy and set an example of environmental leadership."

RGS Energy will undertake the construction, maintenance and monitoring of all the systems.

SUSD is planning to join school districts across the state under the beneficial California's Net Metering programme, which credits solar customers for the excess clean energy their systems send to the grid.

Kam Mofid, CEO of Real Goods Solar, said: "We have successfully deployed solar energy systems at many schools and academic institutions and are always impressed by the great value proposition that solar brings to the educational sector in particular. RGS Energy is delighted to help the Stockton Unified School District achieve its goals of fiscal responsibility, educational excellence and environmental stewardship."

RGS Energy has previously designed and installed nearly 50MW of solar power on schools, universities and colleges across the US, and the company is planning to complete this project in 2013 and 2014.