Neighbors question site of school solar project |

Neighbors question site of school solar project

Teri Vance

Paul Eastwood considers himself an environmentalist.

“I’m a tree hugger,” he explains.

That’s why it makes it hard, he said, to oppose the Carson City School District’s proposal to install 1,500 solar panels in a field behind Seeliger Elementary School.

“I’m all for solar panels. I’m all for green energy,” he said. “Everybody wants it to go in, but the placement of the panels is going to be a problem.”

The field is adjacent to the backyard of the home he’s lived in for 18 years.

The panels, he said, will obstruct the view – one of the reasons he bought the house – as well as negatively impact wildlife and the quality of life for residents and children who play in the field.

“I purchased this property because of the area, the beautiful scenery from my backyard,” he said. “Now, I’m going to be looking at something that looks like the backside of old bleachers.”

He said the roughly 2.5 acres of sagebrush, marked by trails, is used year-round by residents to walk dogs or for children to ride bikes and play.

School district officials are planning to install solar panels at three sites to increase energy efficiency and reduce operating costs. Officials hope to have the panels installed by August.

The nearly $11 million installation cost will be reduced to $975,000 after rebates from the power company, said Tony Turley, finance director for the Carson City School District.

“Rebates are covering 90 percent of the costs of this project,” he said. “That’s why we decided to go forward with this.”

He said a conservative estimate is that the school district would save $400,000 in energy costs annually.

Officials are hosting town hall meetings at the different schools to inform neighbors of the plan.

However, Eastwood contends, residents should have been included in the planning phase.

“It’s disturbing we weren’t consulted in any of this. I found out on Friday or Saturday of last week that they were having the neighborhood meeting this week,” he said. “That really doesn’t give me enough time to get prepared. As far as I’m concerned, I’ve been clotheslined.”

He said he would like to see other options considered for the structures. He cited the plan at Carson Middle School, where the panels will be built like carports and a bus shelter in the parking lot.

The panels at Seeliger will take up about 1.5 acres of the 2.5 acre lot. The front of the panels will start about 18 inches off the ground and rise to 6 feet, 4 inches tall.

Planners say the layout that works well at the middle school would not be feasible at Seeliger.

“At Carson Middle School, the parking lot is a perfect north-south orientation,” said Chad Dickason of Hamilton Solar. “Unfortunately, the parking lot at this school is not set up the same way.”

About 20 people attended the meeting this week at Seeliger.

Neighbor Flora Todt said officials should consider the cost to erect the solar structures.

“We also have to assign value to green space,” she said. “I think we’re dismissing that.”

Mark Korinek, director of operations for the school district, said he has consulted with a teacher at the school who would be interested in creating a natural habitat around the solar panels, which would be fenced in, along with informational displays about clean energy.

He said the structured nature area may be better than the open space that exists now, where he’s found everything from liquor bottles to pornographic magazines tossed in the brush.

“Hopefully it will give kids more ownership of the area,” he said.

Meetings were held at Carson Middle and Seeliger Elementary schools this week. The third is 6:30 p.m. Monday at Eagle Valley Middle School.

School officials will go before the Carson City Planning Commission on Wednesday for approval.