On July 22, the Los Osos Community Advisory Council (LOCAC), a volunteer body that advises the SLO County Board of Supervisors, voted 8-1 to recommend against the Board’s approval of a solar project for the three campuses in Los Osos: Baywood Elementary, Monarch Grove Elementary, and Los Osos Middle School.
The joint San Luis Coastal Unified School District/Sun Edison project—which has been in the planning stages for more than two years—would install special carports in the parking lots of eight SLCUSD campuses to cradle the solar arrays.
LOCAC Chair Vicki Milledge told New Times that the council’s decision was fueled primarily by the visual impacts of the project, including the carports, which would be visible from surrounding roads and would require the removal of a number of trees.
“We were conflicted, because we’re generally supportive of these types of projects for schools,” Milledge said. “But the way this project is designed has caused us several concerns, and there have been no changes based on those concerns.”
LOCAC is a citizen advisory body with no formal sway over the decision process of the San Luis Unified School District or the Board of Supervisors.
Contentions over the project originally centered on tree removal, but have since included concerns over the types of panels proposed and whether the campuses could support rooftop arrays that wouldn’t require the construction of carports.
In a July 26 letter to the supervisors, Santa Lucia Chapter of the Sierra Club Director Andrew Christie said thin-film solar rooftop installation wasn’t given sufficient consideration as a project alternative.
“It seems clear that a rooftop thin-film solar installation for these schools would substantially minimize or avoid tree removal,” Christie wrote.
LOCAC’s decision comes on the heels of a civil grand jury report, which found that school campuses are prime candidates for rooftop solar projects. The Board of Supervisors has recommended approving the grand jury report at its next meeting Aug. 3.