Rancho Santa Fe School board wary of blacktop solar panels

At its Feb. 4 meeting, the Rancho Santa Fe School board was not ready to make a commitment with PFMG Solar on its proposal to bring solar-generating panels atop the school’s rooftops and over the blacktop area.

Superintendent Lindy Delaney said the main issue was the impact of installing structures over the playground and lunch tables.

“It does change the look of the campus,” Delaney said, noting she visited a similar structure at Olivenhain Pioneer in Carlsbad. “It’s a big stricture but we’re saving money so it’s a hard decision.”

Alex Smith, vice president of business development for PFMG, said the project could generate $327,000 in savings to the general fund in the first five years, all with no tax dollars spent. PFMG Solar would bring all the capital to design, build and maintain the system. The savings to the district could grow to over $3 million in 25 years.

At Rowe, Smith said there were some limitations in where the 227-kilowatt system could go, resulting in structures on the roof which Delaney had concerns about as well as the carport-style shade structures on the blacktop, which troubled the board members.

“I’m just afraid these things are going to look massive,” said RSF School District Board Vice President Todd Frank. “You can fool yourself into thinking that it’s going to blend in but there are other options to accomplish the same things in a more discreet way.”

A less impactful option for solar at the school would be on the Dacus property on El Fuego, with structures over the teacher parking lot, Delaney said.

Should it opt for the Dacus property, the district would need to conduct an Environmental Impact Report, which would cost about $100,000 to $150,000 for the nine months-to-a-year process. The existing dirt lot would also be paved as part of the project — teachers in the audience at the board meeting cheered the promise of asphalt replacing the dusty lot.

Delaney said she would bring back the idea of doing an EIR on the Dacus property at a future meeting.

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