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LVU School District in California To Turn Solar

School district turned on by solar power

By Sylvie Belmond
 WHAT THE FUTURE HOLDS—A sample of the solar panels installed at Taft High School. WHAT THE FUTURE HOLDS—A sample of the solar panels installed at Taft High School.A proposed contract between Las Virgenes Unified School District and a solar energy company based in San Diego will allow LVUSD to begin using solar power on district property with no initial cost. It’s a move that will also promote environmental stewardship among students, the district says.
The school district recently hosted town hall meetings at Agoura and Calabasas high schools to discuss the future of solar energy on LVUSD property and to give residents an opportunity to share ideas and provide input about the planned solar panel installations on local high school campuses.
If a contract is approved by the school board later this month, Borrego Solar Systems Inc. would install solar carports and panels at no charge in exchange for a 20-year agreement that would obligate the school district to pay the company a fixed rate of 19 cents per kilowatt.
Construction would take place over the summer.
At Agoura High, the solar systems would be in the faculty parking lot near Driver Avenue and Easterly Road and on the slope along Easterly. The solar systems at Calabasas High would be installed on a portion of the student parking lot near Old Topanga Canyon Road and Mulholland Highway.
The district pays 16 cents per kilowatt to purchase power from Southern California Edison. Officials anticipate the solar systems could save about $33,000 per year, equaling more than $600,000 in electricity-related costs over the next two decades.
The savings are calculated based on Edison increasing its rates over time, said Karen Kimmel, chief business official for the school district, adding that energy prices are expected to rise by 3 percent annually.
The district’s energy costs are about $1.2 million a year, she said.
The solar systems installed by Borrego Solar would provide about 20 percent of the energy needed at each school. The solar company would provide maintenance.
“The district has to look at any way it can to save money,” said district Superintendent Donald Zimring, who added, “It’s part of our overall mission in the district to become greener.”
As part of the agreement with the district, Borrego Solar will offer internships and opportunities for students to learn about solar power and how much electricity they generate.
“One requirement (for a contract) was the educational component to provide materials for science teachers and give a pathway for students to learn about this technology,” school district board member Dave Moorman said.
The non-glare panels will be installed on steel poles and measure between 10 and 14 feet in height.The carport panels will provide lighted and covered parking.
Rhonda Bacot, director of maintenance and operations for LVUSD, said existing roofs are unable to support the panels.
Steve Gittleman, who lives in the Annandale townhome community south of AHS, feels the panels are a visual blight and should be installed elsewhere on campus.
“Everybody that’s in here who says ‘let’s all put panels’ doesn’t stare at this particular thing, which could very well be an eyesore,” Gittleman said.
Others supported the solar venture.
“It’s a great concept,” said Herb Eckerling, who lives in Morrison Ranch.
“I feel that solar has to be part of any energy savings plan for the future. Having solar panels on roofs or over parking lots and hillsides would be the way to go.”
Moorman said all companies that visited AHS found no other viable location for the solar panels. The systems must be near the school’s utility system to minimize transmission costs.
At Calabasas High, the solar project will help solve an existing problem in the student parking area, Moorman said.
“They’ve been asking about putting in lighting in that parking lot for a long time,” he said.

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