The first local benefit from several planned solar power installations could be realized as soon as next year.
- PHOTO COURTESY OF ATASCADERO UNIFIED SCHOOL DISTRICT
- POWER TO THE POLECATS : Carrisa Plains School on the edge of California Valley will soon be solar powered, thanks to a donation by a solar energy company.
Solar energy giant OptiSolar has proposed to build a miniature solar farm at Carrisa Plains School. It would provide the estimated $10,000 worth of electricity used annually at the remote three-room facility on Highway 58 beginning next year.
“Our goal is to provide clean, affordable, renewable energy from the sun, a renewable resource,” Kathryn Arbeit, OptiSolar’s director of business development recently told the Atascadero School Board. “I think we will able to vastly reduce your energy bills.” Arbeit also offered curriculum materials on solar energy.
Though no vote was taken, reaction by AUSD trustees appeared to be warm. “I’m optimistic the board will approve it,” said trustee George Galvan. “It’ll save us $10,000 a year and it will give students an opportunity to see how solar works. It’s a win-win situation for the district.”
OptiSolar, based in Hayward, in July proposed a 6,000-acre solar farm a mile north of the school. The facility now under consideration by county planning would generate 550 megawatts of power to help meet the state’s goals for renewable energy. Yet it has drawn the ire of critics, who contend it and two planned neighboring plants would destroy the sun-baked valley’s rural atmosphere.
The school’s solar farm would measure 220 by 60 feet and would stand waist high. It would be separated from the rest of the school by a chain-link fence and would have its own entrance from the highway. It would be placed at the little-used south end of the school near where the highway turns eastward
For Colleen and Gordon Hayes, whose home is located approximately 1,000 feet east, the details were not comforting.
“We’re totally against all the solar plants,” Mrs. Hayes told the New Times. “I’m fourth generation on the plain and our life will change because of them. We hoped to live here for the rest of our lives. If they reduce the power bill people will say it’s all OK.”
No date has been set for further action by the AUSD board but only five of the seven trustees will be voting. Joel Twisselman and Corrine Kuhnle will abstain from voting due to land sales between their families and OptiSolar, Galvan confirmed.