The San Ramon Valley school board has approved a $23.2 million solar panel project it believes will lead to substantial energy savings.

The board voted unanimously Tuesday to approve the project with San Jose-based SunPower Corp., said district spokesman Terry Koehne. The panels would be put in the parking lots at each comprehensive high school — Dougherty Valley and California in San Ramon and Monte Vista and San Ramon Valley in Danville — and two middle schools — Diablo Vista in Danville and Gale Ranch in San Ramon.

Construction would happen in summer 2011 and the panels would be ready by the 2011-12 school year, Koehne said.

The district is paying for the project through a low-interest federal stimulus loan known as "qualified school construction bonds." The district, one of 43 in the state that through a lottery each won the opportunity to take up to $25 million in loan money, chose to pursue solar.

Consultants hired by the district have projected a net $7 million to $10 million in energy savings after 16 years, that figure reflects savings after expenses during that time period. After 25 years, which is considered the life of the equipment, savings would equate to a net $23 million to $30 million.

There project roused opposition from some in the community. Concerns included taking on more debt in a bad economy and concerns over what could happen if the district does not save as much as projected.

Koehne said the district will be take the full $25 million loan, with the remainder going towards security cameras and interest on the bonds.

Also Tuesday, the school board voted 5-0 to adopt a calender for the 2010-11 school year that reflects furloughs due to budget cuts.

The district, which has separate calenders for Del Amigo Continuation High School, Venture Independent Study and adult and toddler/infant special education students, will have a general calender of 178 instructional days from Aug. 23 to June 15, 2011. The two lost instructional days will be Friday, Sept. 3 during Labor Day weekend and Friday, Feb. 18 during the President's Day weekend. Also, two nonteaching, staff development days in which students would not have attended school were cut. All teachers will be off March 21. Middle and high school teachers will be off Nov. 5, while elementary teachers will be off Jan. 24.

Eric Louie covers San Ramon Valley education. Contact him at 925-847-2123.