February 7, 2011

posted Feb 6, 2011, 8:37 PM by Katherine Stahl   [ updated Feb 8, 2011, 8:43 AM by PFC Webmaster ]

Hello Walnut Acres Parents,


I want to share with you the planning underway to provide solar energy at our Walnut Acres site. As you know, one of the many improvements that comes to us through the passage of Measure C is funding for the district to shift our current utility bill from traditional energy to solar power. The savings of $3,000,000 per year from this plan (plus $16,000,000 of incentive rebates during the first 5 years of operation) will provide much-needed funding for personnel and student program support.


The district plan calls for each site to meet its energy needs through solar panels placed at the site. We will need approximately 11,600 square feet of solar panels at Walnut Acres in order to match site energy consumption needs. The solar panels will be placed on T-shaped structures on our property. (Click here for a picture of an actual T-shaped solar structure.)  The solar panels will rest on inclined roofs that span 36 feet across, 9 feet high on one end and 12 feet high on the other. The roofs will be held aloft by centered posts that stand about 10½ feet high and 27 feet apart.


The MDUSD Measure C Facilities Improvement program team, led by Pete Pederson, and project managers from Sun Power, the selected solar panel company, are now focused on placement of solar panels at each site. The installation of solar panels will begin during summer 2011 and continue through much of 2012. In order to receive rebates, the project must be completed across the district’s 51 sites in April, 2012. High school and middle schools will receive the panel structures first so that panels may be built in parking areas during summer when parking lots are empty and then building will continue at elementary schools in the fall.  


There are many constraints associated with placement of the solar structure in order to meet safety regulations and projected energy consumption. (If the panels are not operating at maximum effectiveness, more panels will be required to meet site energy needs.)  The constraints include east-west placement for maximum sun, 20 foot spacing from roofs, availability of direct sun without shade (away from trees), proximity to equipment pads, and low impact on neighbor’s property values.   


Given these constraints, the MDUSD and Sun Power solar panel team first met with a teacher representative, our PFC president and me. We discussed various options with the goal of placing the structures so that they would minimally interfere with our educational program. The solar panel team returned to meet with our School Site Council on December 14, 2010, and again on January 20, 2011, in order to answer our questions, provide feedback, and consider possibilities. We walked the property together and discussed ways to limit the impact of the structure on our playground. While placement options are very limited given constraints that are inherent to the project, it remains our goal to place the structures in ways that will avoid highly trafficked play areas and provide a functional service, such as shade, for students


If you would like to view a placement option that is now being considered for the solar panels, you are welcome to come by after school on Thursday, February 10, 2011, between 3:00 p.m. and 4:00 p.m. We will place cones on the playground to provide you with a visual of panel placement and I will make myself available to answer questions and listen to your input. To review past district communication and presentations regarding the solar projects, please visit “The District Newsroom” on the district website and check out the Superintendent’s messages. There will soon be a page on the district website devoted to the solar project.


The solar panel team will return to our site to present the final Walnut Acres Solar Panel Plan in March 2011. If you have questions or comments I would like to hear them now.


The MDUSD Solar Panel Project is historic in that the planned 11.2 Megawatt project will be the largest public K-12 installation in the nation. The savings provided by the project, through our voter approved Measure C, will be a crucial component of future district budgets. While that benefit comes with the structures on our site, we are focusing on minimal disruption of program within the tight constraints of the project.


I thank you for your active participation in our school community, and I look forward to seeing you at our annual auction, “The Walnut Acres Auction Derby” as we continue to work together for the support of our wonderful students.



Colleen Dowd

Walnut Acres Principal