Big Pine schoolsâ€™ solar project takes shape as workmen affix girders to the parking lot, â€ścar portâ€ť structure. When finished, the panels will supply 80 percent of the schoolsâ€™ energy needs. Photo by Deb Murphy
The massive structures going up in Big Pine schoolsâ€™ parking lot are not two carport on steroids. By early next week, solar panels will be installed on top of the girders and the Big Pine Unified School District will be on its way to near energy self-sufficiency.
When completed by mid-December, the solar installation will provide 80 percent of the schoolsâ€™ electricity, indirectly, and, even more importantly, reduce their bill by the same. With an average monthly $5,000 electricity bill, that translates into a $48,000 annual savings.
District Superintendent Pamela Jones describes the installation as an energy plant. The system will be plugged into the Los Angeles Department of Water and Powerâ€™s grid with the district drawing off that grid. The difference between what the districtâ€™s system contributes and what the district pulls off the grid is 20 percent.
The panels installed on the parking lot structure will also function as an impressive carport over the lots two banks of angled parking spaces. A second, smaller installation is underway just south of the schoolâ€™s football field.
The 826, 240-watt panels measure 69.95 by 39.05 inches each and are just under 2 inches thick.
The planning process began three years ago and was made possible by the passage of a district bond measure in 2010. The project financing was through the Clean and Renewable Energy Bonds. Bond purchasers receive tax credits in lieu of interest.
The $1 million project will reap the immediate reward of a $500,000 rebate as part of DWPâ€™s Solar Photovoltaic Incentive Program. According to Jones, the rebate will go into the districtâ€™s building fund in a holding pattern because of a previous bond commitment to not impact community property taxes.
While it took the district two years to wade through the plan approval process with the California Division of State Architect, the actual estimate for completion is just under two months, starting from the initial mobilization by contractor Solar City on Oct. 8 to the estimated completion on Dec. 3.