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Rancho Santa Fe School board considers solar power options

The Rancho Santa Fe School District could be moving forward on its solar energy project this year as it faces historically high electricity prices.

Rather than a direct purchase of a system of panels for the campus, at the Jan. 7 board meeting Superintendent Lindy Delaney recommended the district consider leasing, also known as a power purchase agreement (PPA). A PPA is a way for the district to go solar without having to pay the capital investment of $800,000 to $1 million.

In a PPA, the district would host a system that is paid for and owned by a provider. The district would enter a contract with the provider to purchase the electricity generated by the system on the school’s property. The price of the electricity is typically set at or below the current utility rate for the first year, increasing annually during the 25-year lease.

With a PPA, the provider and not the district would be responsible for repairs and maintenance, which Delaney considered a big plus.

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Debra Vaughn-Cleff, of Webb Cleff Architecture and Engineering, said there are several options for solar panel arrays on campus. Phase one would include a mounted array over the blacktop lunch and play areas. Phase two would include arrays on top of the roof; phase three would include structures over the staff parking lot on the Dacus property on El Fuego; and phase four would be mounts on top of a possible new gym.

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.

At its Jan. 7 meeting, the board members requested more information, such as visuals, before they make their decision.

“I have no problem putting it on the roof but putting large structures across the blacktop, I worry about what that would look like when you’re in it or under it,” Vice President Todd Frank said.

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Vaughn-Cleff said they would look like shade structures or carports and would be similar to those done at Olivenhain Pioneer Elementary School in Carlsbad.

Frank and RSF School Board President Tyler Seltzer said structures over the lunch tables made more sense because it would provide added shade, but they wanted to avoid the blacktop looking like a “solar field.” Frank suggested they consider locating arrays over the bleachers on the sports field where people could also benefit from the shade.

Delaney said she would bring back the item with the requested information at an upcoming meeting, possibly a special board meeting. She said if the board wanted to pursue the solar project they would want to get the work done over the summer.


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