School solar – full steam ahead

The school district’s ambitious solar project has come under some fire in recent months – mostly from neighbors disgruntled over the appearance of the now-installed panels. Despite the resounding approval of Measure H – the bond measure that enabled the funding of the installations, which passed with 67.6 percent of the vote – residents of two neighborhoods adjacent to Adele Harrison Middle School and the district office on Railroad Avenue, respectively – aren’t pleased with the results.

At Tuesday night’s school board meeting, Deputy Superintendent Justin Frese updated the board on the solar projects while addressing the concerns of residents in the two locations.

“We’re definitely on the downhill run,” said Frese of a completion date for the installations. “And although I don’t like to perpetuate timelines, the vendors are looking at late May as the time when the panels will be fully energized.”
At the Railroad Avenue site, Frese said that crews will begin work to lower the panels below the fence line, something neighbors requested a number of months ago, while landscaping installed along the Railroad Avenue fence has been updated as well. “The goal is to have the landscaping grow taller than the fence line to obscure the view from the street but not so much that it affects the production value of the panels.”

At the Adele Harrison site, Frese said drainage work has been completed and a new tree installed, both items neighbors asked to have happen.

When discussing the long-term financial impact expected from the installations and the concerns brought up at a recent school board meeting by Adele Harrison neighbor, Nancy Ligon, Frese said, “It’s complicated.”

According to Frese, when looking at the savings to the district brought on by the installation of solar, “the big picture includes rebates, which will pay for half of the interest.” Further, Frese pointed out that interest isn’t paid by the district but rather, by the taxpayers – a point of confusion at previous board meetings.”

“Most of the road blocks are out of the way and we’re moving closer to flipping the on switch,” said Frese. “The panels in the high school parking lot are probably the most dramatic but at all the sites, the installations will add shelter from the rain and the sun.”

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