[Newscast includes additional details regarding the solar panel canopy installation as well as interviews with IUSD Math and Science Coordinator Mark Sontag and UHS Principal John Pehrson.]
By ANJANI IMAN and ZAINAB AZIZ
On June 26, construction on solar-paneled parking canopies began at University High School (UHS). After construction work is completed, UHS will be one of nine Irvine Unified School District (IUSD) campuses outfitted with this technology. The installation of parking canopies at UHS marks phase two of IUSD’s solar panel initiative.
After attending a conference in Norway in 2008 on energy conservation, IUSD partnered with solar energy company SunEdison to start making campuses solar-panel friendly. Installing panels with SunEdison cost the district no out-of-pocket payments, and energy is sold to IUSD by SunEdison at a lower cost than what Southern California Edison charges.
In 2010 and 2011, IUSD implemented phase one of its solar panel initiative. Rooftop solar tiles were installed in 13 campuses, including the 200s and 300s building here at UHS, and solar-paneled parking canopies were installed in two district locations. IUSD has saved about $220,000 in energy costs per year since installing its phase one solar panels.
For phase two, IUSD originally planned on installing parking canopies on 12 sites. The solar panels on each site are designed to match the architecture of each specific school. However, due to complaints from local residents that the solar panels, which emit faint humming sounds, would be too loud, construction plans for Oak Creek Elementary School, Canyon View Elementary School and Sierra Vista Middle School were terminated. The UHS community voted in favor of building the canopy structures.
At UHS, canopy structures were built over the “junior lot,” which faces the 200’s building. There are currently no plans to build canopies over the “senior lot,” which is adjacent to the 300’s building. Not only do the solar-paneled parking canopies reduce energy costs for the district, but they also provide much-needed shade for the sunny parking lots at UHS.
To accommodate the parking canopy structures, trees have been cut down and rearranged at the affected campuses. At UHS, trees were cut down around the periphery of the “junior lot” the day after school ended, marking the first day of construction.
IUSD projects that phase two will save the district roughly $305,000 in energy costs in the first year. Combined, phases one and two are predicted to save IUSD anywhere from $4 to $10 million over the next twenty years.