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Here comes the sun

Original post made on Dec 8, 2010

Work has begun on a solar power system that will generate at least 25 percent of the power consumed by both Mountain View and Los Altos high schools, according to a district official.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Tuesday, December 7, 2010, 5:58 PM

Comments (17)

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Posted by USA
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Dec 8, 2010 at 4:12 pm

USA is a registered user.

"the project will ultimately save the school district $250,000 on its energy bill each year, which means the district can spend more money on educating students"

Minus $7 million dollars


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Posted by USA
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Dec 8, 2010 at 4:22 pm

USA is a registered user.

"1.27 megawatts annually" I assume that you mean 1.27 megawatts-hours. To save $250,000, the district would be paying about 20 cents per kwh. Are they actually paying that much? Unless they are buying it from Hawaii, I call BS Web Link

Even if they are paying as mush as 14 cents per kwh, the pay back period is at least 40 year which is probably well beyond the realistic life expectancy of system.


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Posted by Shelly
a resident of Gemello
on Dec 8, 2010 at 4:59 pm

@USA: No matter what they pay per kwh, the funding for the system comes from measure A and it frees up some general fund money. Even if they save only $25K per year, that's $25K that they can spend on the classroom that they wouldn't have had otherwise. Measure A money can't be spent on the classroom.


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Posted by USA
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Dec 8, 2010 at 6:04 pm

USA is a registered user.

I was just sitting here wondering how long it would take before someone would post that this was paid for without raising taxes.

Less than an hour. Wow.

BTW, bonds are a tax that you fully repay plus substantial interest. Just because you do not pay the whole amount in the current fiscal year doesn't mean it is not a tax. Off-hand, I do not recall the payback period for this bond, but assuming 30 years, expect it to cost something like $15-20 million total over the life of the bond.

Now, to see how long it takes somebody to raise the .... but, the cost of energy is going to go up someday.


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Posted by USA
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Dec 8, 2010 at 6:10 pm

USA is a registered user.

"Measure A money can't be spent on the classroom."

Text for Measure A on the ballot: "Local High School Improvement Measure. Without increasing current tax rates, shall Mountain View-Los Altos Union High School District add classrooms and science labs to prevent student overcrowding, improve instructional technology to support academic programs, lower energy costs by upgrading heating, ventilation, electrical and other systems, improve/add student safety systems, repair, construct and acquire school facilities and equipment, by issuing $41,300,000 in bonds at legal interest rates, with all expenditures subject to independent citizens' oversight."

Note the word "classroom" and the lack of any details about the terms of the loan. Who the hell takes out big loan without reading the terms? Oh yeah, all those idiots err victims whose houses are being foreclosed.


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Posted by in vs on classroom
a resident of St. Francis Acres
on Dec 8, 2010 at 9:19 pm

@USA - Shelly meant "in the classroom" not on classroom (as Measure A will fund much needed additional physical classrooms for our kids).

Also, maybe you're more fortunate than most in Mountain View. I really don't know many people who can buy or renovate their homes without taking a loan ....


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Posted by USA
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Dec 9, 2010 at 10:21 am

USA is a registered user.

vs - I certainly have no issue with building needed infrastructure to support education. Pissing away $7 million on what will likely be less than $200,000 per year savings is ridiculous and fiscally irresponsible.

I also certainly prefer green solutions, but we need to be smart about them. Wasting tax money not only hurts students but also deprives other green projects that could have had a greater environmental impact. (I assume that the schools are heated with natural gas, right?)


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Posted by USA
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Dec 9, 2010 at 10:24 am

USA is a registered user.

What will students learn from this feel-good project?

"future students to go out in the parking lot and see how it actually works, first-hand"

Wow. Looking at a solar panel bolt on top of a pole is educational? I guess at a time when it has become more important for a student to feel good about themselves than to actually learn something, this probably makes sense.

Well, the mob has spoken and we are stuck with this taxpayer boondoggle. At least lets get some real education from this. How about spending some classroom time to:

1) Calculate solar cell efficiency - Science
2) Look up the cost of electricity and the sources of the retail price - Government
3) Compute the current and future money flows for the bond and for the solar payback - Finance
4) Question those responsible for pushing this project - Investigative journalism


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Posted by David
a resident of another community
on Dec 9, 2010 at 3:05 pm

Great to know that Mountain View competes favorably with Palo Alto in percentage of naysayers responding to news articles.


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Posted by USA
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Dec 9, 2010 at 5:07 pm

USA is a registered user.

David - I prefer the label "Party of No". It sounds much more festive than "naysayer". If the Democrats could overcome their obsessive-compulsive spending habits and take a hard look at how they are spending *our* money, they would still be in power.


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Posted by KD
a resident of Waverly Park
on Dec 9, 2010 at 10:25 pm

"Enough to power about 10 houses for an entire year."
For sake of argument, let's round up and call it 11 houses.
$7,000,000 = $636,363 per house.
Somehow, I don't see people investing $636,363 for a solar system that will provide electrical power.
What am I missing?



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Posted by just askin
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Dec 9, 2010 at 10:55 pm

USA: don't you have anything better to do?
I wonder how much energy you wasted making all these posts.


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Posted by Jes' Sayin'
a resident of Blossom Valley
on Dec 10, 2010 at 1:22 am

Boy, usually I'm on the leftwing side of things, but even I think this economics on this one just don't add up.


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Posted by ann
a resident of another community
on Dec 10, 2010 at 8:10 am

thank you to USA for what you have said....and the REALITY CHECK....you were civil and informative...i only wish YOU could be the one teaching government, science and finance to our students....


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Posted by Seer
a resident of Blossom Valley
on Dec 10, 2010 at 8:41 am

I'm not sure I understand how this project costs $7M when outfitting the same 10 houses with solar electric at $40k each (after tax savings) adds up to $400,000. Is the system gold-plated?

Putting the economics of the system aside for the moment, I observe that when I'm on the campuses of MVLA schools, there is energy being wasted everywhere. Lights are on in classrooms all night, and heating/airconditioning systems are running nights, weekends, and all summer. Simply turning off these systems could bring the capacity of the solar installation to 50% of needed power rather than 25%.

It's grossly irresponsible to spend big bucks on solar power without spending small bucks on conservation. It's obviously the mentality of public employees or their managers that energy is free, a mentality that the voters must challenge.


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Posted by A student
a resident of Shoreline West
on Dec 19, 2010 at 11:07 pm

@Seer: As an informed student from Los Altos High School, I can responsibly tell you that my school does not leave "Lights on in classrooms all night, and heating/airconditioning systems running nights, weekends, and all summer."

Air conditioning systems could be controlled by teachers, and most teachers I know do not turn on heat to begin with; those who do remember to turn it off.

Also, all of our lights have motion sensors. In other words, they turn themselves off when there's no one in the room. I have experienced this first hand: I had a free period last year and was quietly doing homework in my teacher's room. Half way through the period, the lights shut off because my teacher and I weren't moving much. We had to get up and walk around in order to get the lights to turn on again. There is absolutely no way that classrooms leave lights on at night UNLESS there was an evening activity at school ans students were INSIDE the classrooms, which was often the case.

Over the summer, there is a master shut off before school gets out,
so obviously heat does not run over the summer.

Pardon my bluntness, but all your claims about energy waste in 'MVLA schools' are false unless you are talking about MVHS only or the last time you have gone to 'MVLA schools' was several years ago.

I don't know if the solar panels were the best idea, but please do not make irresponsible claims about the waste of energy at our schools.

Also, in case anyone did not understand this: the MVLA district has only two schools, which are Los Altos High School and Mountain View High School.


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Posted by A Student
a resident of Shoreline West
on Dec 19, 2010 at 11:18 pm

Also, according to the Town Crier:
Web Link

PG&E are also giving us $1.6 million annually for rebate on energy saving, which could pay back the 7 million in 7 years.

The solar panels are good for 25 years.


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