IUSD sends out notices encouraging the public to weigh in on second phase of solar project

At the direction of its Board of Education, the Irvine Unified School District has mailed out thousands of fliers encouraging local residents to weigh in on a proposal to add vehicle shade structures outfitted with energy-generating solar panels to a dozen Irvine campuses.

Information has also been added to the IUSD homepage, which now links to a more robust webpage with details on the plan, renderings of each site and an online comment form. The idea is to generate as much community feedback as possible by the July 4 deadline. The board, meanwhile, is expected to vote on the matter six days later.

IUSD added solar tiles to the rooftops of 13 schools in 2010 and 2011, and vehicle shade structures topped with the photovoltaic panels were constructed at two district sites, including the District Office. The district paid no upfront capital costs for these projects and is now saving about $220,000 annually thanks to a mutually beneficial power-purchasing agreement with SunEdison.

proposed second phase of this initiative would place additional vehicle shade structures in the parking lots of up to a dozen IUSD campuses. In addition to the environmental and curricular benefits, Phase 2 would reduce energy spending by another $380,000 a year, with a projected 20-year savings of between $5 million and $11 million, officials said. Those dollars would be  unrestricted, meaning they could help offset further operational cuts during California’s fiscal crisis.

Acknowledging the potential upside, the Board of Education wants to make sure the structures are also a good fit with their local neighborhoods, and they’re hoping to gauge the community’s level of support before moving forward.

At its June 6 meeting, the board approved a comprehensive communications plan to get the word out and solicit feedback on the vehicle shade structures. Staff was directed to mail notices to residents within a quarter-mile radius of the sites being considered, as well as other homes that share a neighborhood with those in the quarter-mile zone. In addition, board members asked that more detailed information be posted online and sent out through the district’s Facebook and Twitter sites.

If you’d like to learn more about the plan, or if you wish to leave your comments, click here. All submissions received on or before July 4 will be reviewed by staff and presented to the board, which is expected to vote on the plan at its July 10 meeting.