Community members, students and school administrators gathered at Big Pine School last week to celebrate the completion of a long-awaited solar project that will cut utility costs at the school and allow the district to protect a part of Big Pine’s history.
To preserve “the heart” of its community, Big Pine Unified School District will create a fund to maintain the district’s nearly 100-year-old Big Pine High School building with savings from SolarCity’s installation of more than 800 solar panels on the district’s new parking lot shade structures.
The school started generating power Jan. 3. There is a link on the school website that allows residents to see how much power is generated daily, weekly or monthly.
School officials hosted a ribbon cutting Friday, Feb. 8 at the Big Pine High School Gymnasium to celebrate completion of the 198 kilowatt project.
“Big Pine High School is the most prominent building in the town of Big Pine, and we are all very proud of it,” said District Superintendent Pamela Jones. “Going solar is a sound financial and environmental decision, but it’s also helping us preserve Big Pine’s history.”
The district expects to save up to $4,000 each month with the solar installation, which will provide about 80 percent of its electricity needs with clean, renewable energy.
Without having to dip into its general fund, the district funded the project with a federal Clean Renewable Energy Bond and a local general obligation bond. It expects to receive a rebate from the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power to cover half the project’s construction costs.
SolarCity has completed or undertaken more than 300 solar projects for schools, community colleges and universities across the country, and now has more than 2,700 employees.
“We’re gratified to help Big Pine Unified School District preserve such an important community landmark while protecting the environment and conserving limited budget dollars,” said Dennis Cox, SolarCity’s regional vice president in Central California. “Theirs is one of the most creative uses of solar savings that we have seen to date.”
During last week’s ribbon cutting, dignitaries, including Jones, Solar City represneatives Jeff Bretz and Jason Armstrong and Big Pine School Board Presidnet Sandy Lund, addressed students and community members.
Armstrong, project manager, said, “Working at this school district was a great experience. It was one of the best school districts I have ever worked with, and I have worked with many.”
Bretz, the project director noted, “Your superintendent had a vision, and it was achieved despite obstacles and it was because she did expect more than others thought was possible.”
A member of the student body and a local parent also provided comments and the high school music class played several songs as the community assembled before a musical presentation by Big Pine preschoolsers.
“The preschoolers who sang a song about our solar project were not yet born when the project began with a Clean and Renewable Bond application in 2009,” Jones said. “By the time they graduate from high school the project will have earned the district $945,441 to use towards continued repair and enhancement of our historic school facilities, the heart of our community.”