Jennifer Terman

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September 18, 2013
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Some schools go solar; others wait

As part of a move toward more efficient and environmentally conscious technology, schools across Nevada County have installed or considered installing solar technology.

Schools will receive funds from Proposition 39, which changed the way income tax is calculated for businesses to save about $1 billion to be used for public schools and renewable energy construction. However, the date of disbursement is unknown, causing most schools to wait before implementing such new technology.

“The regulations for the use of Prop. 39 funds have not yet been released, nor has the funding,” said Nevada County Superintendent of Schools Holly Hermansen. “Schools know how much they will be receiving, but without regulations, I am not sure how much planning has been done yet.”

Some schools have already installed solar technology after assessment of a true cost savings.

Twin Ridges Home Study Charter had solar panels installed last week by California Solar with project management assistance from PlanIt Solar’s April Grimm, as part of a $10,000 Pacific Gas & Electric grant. According to Brandon Davis, sales manager for California Solar, nine panels with 2.7 kilowatt power were installed at Twin Ridges for a savings of about 33 percent of their energy use.

The company also installed solar panels at Grizzly Hill School, part of the Twin Ridges School District, which became 100 percent solar during the 2012-13 school year.

Plan It Solar installed solar panels at Union Hill School several years ago, in addition to other school facilities, according to Plan It Solar founder Martin Webb.

Other schools have not yet found solar technology to be a viable or sufficiently cost-effective option.

“We’re always looking at solar out here at Clear Creek, and in the past we’ve looked, and it hasn’t been cost effective for us to purchase it,” said Clear Creek Superintendent Scott Lay. “But with incoming technology and Prop. 39 funds, we’re looking at other options.”

Such was the same story with Nevada City, Grass Valley and Pleasant Valley and Ready Springs school districts, all of whom are awaiting more concrete details on Prop. 39 funds.

“Everybody is still deciphering what exactly the law means,” said Ready Springs Principal Thomas Bivens.

“We know we have the money, but it takes awhile for it to shake down.”

Chicago Park School District received a grant from PG&E for an educational solar panel used in science class, where students can visit a website to monitor the energy used and saved, said Chicago Park Superintendent Dan Zeisler.

“It’s enough energy to handle about two classrooms, and we’ve been fully utilizing it for about five years,” he said. “It’s really more of a learning tool, but every bit helps.”

Zeisler cited frustration at the unknown time frame for the receipt of Prop. 39 funds, especially after a 22-year-old air conditioner recently failed and cost the school $3,800.

“We’re just playing a big waiting game,” he said. “We know the money should be coming, and we’re not seeing the benefit and not able to utilize it. It’s status quo for now, but hope is on the horizon.”

To contact Staff Writer Jennifer Terman, email or call 530-477-4230.

*This story has been changed to reflect that Plan It Solar installed solar technology on Union Hill School several years ago, in addition to other facilities, according to Plan It Solar founder Martin Webb.

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The Union Updated Sep 23, 2013 03:39PM Published Sep 22, 2013 02:19PM Copyright 2013 The Union. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.