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RSF school district still guarded about solar project

RANCHO SANTA FE — An agenda item at the last Rancho Santa Fe School District meeting was a comprehensive presentation about a potential solar project. The topic has been discussed at length at previous meetings, however, on this round Alex Smith, representing PFMG Solar, was on hand.

While board members listened to the presentation, they were candid about their concerns about the blacktop solar panel structures discussed.

An important item that Smith wanted the board to know was the cost savings for the District. Following solar installation, within five years it was estimated that the District could incur a cost savings of $327,000. Looking ahead 25 years, and that number swelled to more than $3 million.

“And that’s all coming with no tax dollars being spent,” said Smith, vice president of business development at PFMG.

To date, PFMG has a total of 20 school districts under contract.

According to Smith, there was no capital cost on behalf of the District for this project. While running down the list of savings, Smith also pointed out an educational feature that goes along with a good solar system.

“You can monitor the system in real time,” he said.

In turn, the solar systems can be utilized as lab projects for students in classes such as algebra, math, economics, and writing. Smith said there was proven success of these programs.

“Teachers have found it to be a pretty exciting feature of the system,” he said.

Smith also mentioned the shade element that solar generating panels can bring.

“The school district can provide that leadership to the community about renewable energy and what it means,” Smith said.

The board deliberated on whether or not they would want to place blacktop solar structures at the playground and lunch areas, among other spots on the campus. Rancho Santa Fe School Board Vice President Todd Frank said how he really wanted to see more of a ground level view as opposed to aerial views.

“I’m just afraid these things are going to look massive,” he said, adding how he was not committed to making a vote at that time.

School Board Clerk Marti Ritto said she would like to see a reconfiguration of the blacktop solar panels.

The school board also wondered if there was a way to implement the solar panels without altering the appearance of the campus. Frank chimed in using the word, “discreet.”

Superintendent Lindy Delaney then brought up the prospect of utilizing the Dacus property, which is currently used as the parking lot for teachers and staff. If that was more appealing, then an environmental impact report would need to be done.

Delaney told the board that she would provide more updates on the potential solar project at a future meeting.