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Sonoma County schools focus on solar projects


Investments in solar energy dominate work being done on school campuses across Sonoma County this summer — bringing to fruition the first stages of work financed by more than $141 million in bonds passed by voters last year.

Shaka Grayson is lost in the array of support structures on a solar energy array being installed at El Molino High School in Forestville. (Jeff Kan Lee / PD)

Eight school districts earned voter support for millions of capital improvements from new roofs to upgraded technology, but solar projects dominated the wish lists and for many districts were the first projects launched when students left school for the summer.

“We are on schedule to finish the main construction before school starts,” said Keller McDonald, superintendent of West County School District where $4.6 million portion of a $23.8 million bond measure have been issued for solar arrays on the campuses of El Molino and Analy high schools.

The district hopes to generate 75 percent of its energy costs from the solar panels that are being installed as shade structures, parking lot covers and as roof panels, McDonald said.

At Piner-Olivet School District, solar installations cover parking lots and eating areas accounts for $2.4 million of the $20 million bond that earned approval by just 20 votes out of 5,429 cast in November.

The estimated energy savings will eventually pay for the solar portion of the project, said Becky Leffew, director of business for the 1,600-student district.

“For the cost of the whole project, it would be totally paid for within 15 years. The panels are now rated to last for 30 years,” she said.

In other work, the driveway at Olivet School is being redesigned this summer and Schaefer School is undergoing roof work.

In Sonoma, solar panels will be erected over parking lots, eating areas and installed as ground mounts, said Justin Frese, deputy superintendent.

“Solar has been an all-consuming project this summer and we are going to be pushing right up to the end to get those complete,” he said.

“I’m thinking that we will probably be doing construction work every summer over the next three to four years,” he said. “We issued the first $15 million of the $40 million campaign. We did that because we don’t want to go out and take on all that debt.”

In Bennett Valley, patches of dirt mark where seven portable classrooms used to stand. Twelve rooms are being constructed off-site and are expected to be in place and ready to house students by December, said Steve Crouse, director of maintenance and operations.

Solar panels will be installed on the roofs of new classrooms and eventually on the rooftop of the new multipurpose room.

In Forestville and Mark West, solar is not part of the plan. This summer has seen the re-roofing of four buildings, overhauling of two sets of bathrooms, installing air conditioning in three classrooms and adding technology in Forestville classrooms.

Next summer, the parking lot and playgrounds will be overhauled with what remains of the $5.1 million bond, said Superintendent Bob Borbe.

4 Responses to “Sonoma County schools focus on solar projects”

  1. Observer says:

    First things first. Get the EPA to remove Co2 from it’s list of pollutants. That would derail half of it.

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  2. Social Dis-Ease says:

    Ssshhh…I have a little secret. MAN INDUCED GLOBAL WARMING IS THE BIGGEST HOAX EVER INFLICTED ON MODERN CIVILIZATION! The smartest minds on the planet were commissioned by the U.N. to come up with the goods, (you know, like find me those Weapons of Mass Destruction) they unanimously reported back that they could not connect the dots! Climatologists throughout the world echo the same findings. This wouldn’t be such a big thing except that…this ‘cooked science’ is the FOUNDATION for the largest oppression ever inflicted on modern civilization. The local tenticle of this International oppression is ICLEI. Not only is Sonoma Co. signed up (I don’t remember voting on it, do you?) they are cutting edge kiss asses to this crap. It is changing EVERYTHING! Unalienable Rights, property rights, capitalism, etc.,etc.,etc.. Contrived/engineered lack. This oppression is contriving new ways to **** you EVERY DAY! THAT is what’s REALLY goin’ on fellow citizens. Some of you know it. Some suspect it. Better study up, get the word out fast-’cause they got big plans. You won’t like the plans, promise. Search: Democrats Against UN Agenda 21, Freedom Advocates. Search Agenda 21 on Youtube.

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  3. Pearl Alquileres says:

    But it “feels good” to spend other peoples money to help fight Global Warming.
    If we can just take enough money from enough people we can “change” the natural state of the earth’s climate.
    In fact… if we just steal more money from rich people who clearly don’t know how to spend it all, we could even provide free health care, housing, food, etc. for all Americans, even the people who sneak past the boarder.
    I just know “we can”! …all my friends tell me so and they’re REAL smart!

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  4. The Hammer says:

    Here is the flaw in their logic. The solar panels will not last 30 years. Nor will any roof with a 30 years shingle on it. Plus there will be a lot of yearly maintenance on the panels.

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