Alyssa Morin

Redondo schools flip the switch on solar energy

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Solar shades, like these covering a parking lot, will offset 70% of energy used by Redondo Beach schools. Submitted photo.

Solar shades, like these covering a parking lot, will offset 70% of energy used by Redondo Beach schools. Submitted photo.

Two Redondo Beach Unified School District elementary schools are officially running on the sun. Tulita and Lincoln Elementary were the first in the district to be commissioned for the Measure Q-backed 1.6 megawatt solar project and both are now fully operational.

In November 2012, Redondo Beach passed Measure Q, a $63 million bond to upgrade technology infrastructure and install solar panels at all Redondo Beach public schools. The approved solar plan promised to offset 70% of energy used by the schools, reducing the district’s electricity bills, and consumption from Edison, totaling approximately $15 Million in savings over 25 years. It passed by a 64% majority in the city.

Huntington Beach company PsomasFMG was chosen to design, build and operate the photovoltaic systems for the 12 RBUSD schools. Nine other district schools will be completed within the next month. Birney Elementary will be completed this summer.

“As these projects come on line, the energy savings and opportunities for educational enrichment present tremendous opportunities for the students of Redondo Beach,” said Alex Smith, PsomasFMG Vice President.

“RBUSD is always looking for cost savings and we encourage every student to be mindful of the environment,” said School Board President, Laura Emdee. “This solar project will save the district millions while serving as a good environmental science example for our students and community.”

Janet Redella, Assistant Superintendent of Administrative Services for RBUSD, echoed Emdee’s excitement about the economic, environmental and educational gains that the solar project will provide to the city.

“Our Board President said it very well,” Redella said. “There are three components to the benefits this brings Redondo: the financial, the environmental and the instructional. Teachers can incorporate solar energy in their lessons now, even at the elementary level. Kids can log in online see how much solar energy we are producing based on weather, season, month, etc. Beyond all of the savings, this will always be really fun for our students.”

Redondo Beach Superintendent Steven Keller and the Redondo Beach School Board were the champions behind Measure Q. At a time when the city, as well as the country, was in tough economic condition, they asked Redondo citizens to dip lightly into their pockets to provide for the future of their community.

In 2012, Emdee told voters that the solar panel shade structures that would be installed at every school would initially cost $15 million, but would save $500,000 from the general fund yearly, freeing up money to potentially keep teachers and prevent additional furlough days. The cost to voters was approximately $24 per $100,000 assessed value of their homes.

Environmentally speaking, the solar project will create cleaner air for students and the community by reducing 16,172 tons of carbon pollution over the next 25 years. That is the equivalent of taking 2,890 cars off the road or planting 24,540 trees. Sulfur dioxide will be reduced by 25,000 pounds and nitrous oxide by 23,670 pounds.

To celebrate these systems coming on line, there will be a “Flip the Switch” ceremony at Tulita Elementary School on Tuesday, March 18 at 10 a.m.