IRVINE – Irvine Unified School District is considering plans to install solar-paneled parking canopies at 11 campuses after it saved $220,000 in electricity costs in its first year using mostly rooftop solar panels at 15 sites.
The parking canopies, to be installed by SunEdison, are expected to save the district $380,000 in energy costs in the first year, public records show.
This rendering shows the solar-power parking canopies proposed for Stonegate Elementary School. Irvine Unified School District plans to install the canopies and solar panels at 11 schools to save money on electricity, pitch in on conservation efforts and teach students abour renerable energy technology.
IMAGE COURTESY OF IRVINE UNIFIED SCHOOL DISTRICT
STORY BY THE NUMBERS
$5 million to $11 million –the potential energy cost savings the district will see over 20 years, depending on the price of non-solar electricity.
24 –Total number of district sites that would have solar panels on their roof, in their parking lot or both if the second project is approved.
11 –Number of Irvine schools that would get solar-power parking canopies if the plan is approved in whole by the school board.
BOARD MEETING INFO
The Irvine Unified Board of Education meeting is at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at 5050 Barranca Parkway in Irvine. Information:iusd.orgor 949-936-5000.
Altogether, the solar panels from both projects are expected to save the district $5 million to $11 million in the next two decades, depending on what Southern California Edison charges for its electricity. In recent years, the district’s electricity bill has been about $4 million annually. The two ‘Edisons’ are not related.
The campuses under consideration for the parking lot canopies are: Alderwood, Canyon View, Oak Creek, Stonegate and Woodbury elementary schools; Vista Verde K-8 school; Sierra Vista Middle School; and Irvine, Northwood, University and Woodbridge high schools. University and Irvine high schools already have the rooftop panels.
The Board of Education will consider the plans Tuesday night. There are no upfront costs to the district, officials said. The solar company pays for the installation and then earns its revenue by selling the sun’s energy to the district at a price lower than Southern California Edison charges for electricity. Power accumulated during summer on closed schools is sold to Southern California Edison, which pays for it via a credit on the district’s subsequent bills.
The first project included rooftop panels at 13 schools and the parking canopies at two district building.
Some residents from surrounding neighborhoods have expressed concerns about the shade canopies.
Kristin Rhodes of Northwood Pointe said plans for Canyon View Elementary have not considered the “visual impact” on the neighborhood, that the district did not communicate with enough residents and that renderings of the canopies don’t accurately depict their height and angle.
The canopies will be painted to match each school’s architecture scheme, and their standard design has been pre-approved by state officials, said Mark Sontag, the district’s math and science curriculum coordinator. The renderings are generally accurate, but angles and heights may vary by each location, he said.
A district report says it mailed letters to nearby residents and homeowner associations, held community information meetings announced in the Irvine World News and provided information and a contact link on its website. Most of the input was inquisitive or supportive, Sontag said.
Irvine Unified and its Board of Education have placed a high value on aesthetics when considering facility projects, and how the canopies look will be weighed before a decision is made to approve the project in whole or in part, according to district spokesman Ian Hanigan.
“In addition to creating environments that are safe, efficient and conducive to learning, we want our campuses to complement their surrounding neighborhoods,” Hanigan said.
Aside from saving money, Sontag said the district looked to solar power to pitch in on conservation efforts and help teach its students how renewable-energy technology works. All fifth- and sixth-graders in Irvine Unified receive 18 lessons in renewable energy as part of their science curriculum, he said.