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September 2, 2009 > School Board stalls solar project

School Board stalls solar project

By Miriam G. Mazliach

The biggest surprise at the Fremont Unified School Board's August 26 meeting was the turnabout on the solar panel project. Chevron, which looked like a "slam-dunk" was left holding the ball when the Board decided not to proceed with their plan.

During the first phase of the district's solar implementation project, free standing solar structures were to be erected over football fields and parking structures at Fremont secondary schools. The district had hoped to save money by feeding the solar power back to PG&E, thereby getting credit toward their electric bill.

Chevron fronted costs of the initial application process for solar credits and Renewable Ventures was to provide financing for power production.

However, at the School Board meeting Jim Petersen of PetersenDean Roofing and Solar Systems threw his company's hat in the ring, with a lower-priced charge per watt of $5.25 versus $6.25 to be assessed by Chevron.

As an added incentive for consideration, Petersen offered to place rooftop solar panels, free of charge, at Horner Junior High.

Chevron countered with their commitment to the project, fully-developed plans and proven track record in the solar field.

It was evident that the School Board had many unresolved questions regarding costs to the district, and the best type of solar panels for installation, (free standing or rooftop.) After listening to many hours of speakers and after much discussion, the Board opted to not make a motion to approve Chevron's plan.

Rather, the Board instructed the Superintendent's staff to look into the cost of an RFP (Request for Proposal) from all interested vendors who wish to provide the school district with power purchase agreements.

According to Therese Gain, Director of Facilities Management for F.U.S.D., the staff has to now identify the costs that would be incurred for advertising for the selection process as well as any costs to re-start the application process.

Additionally, missing the August 31 deadline will mean the loss of some favorable solar credit incentive rates.

Gain explained that last fall, when the process began, the school district was interested in utilizing free-standing, not rooftop solar panels. At the time, Chevron was the only company with pre-approval for the state approved shade structures.

"I hope that Chevron will re-apply," says Gain."They do have a good product to offer, but for whatever reason, the timing was off."

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