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Castro Valley Superintendent Clarifies Questions on School District's Solar Panel Projects

Castro Valley School District Superintendent Jim Negri tries to answer recent questions regarding the district's solar projects, which began this month.

In recent weeks, there have been a number of letters to the editor, posts to blogs, and questions about the solar projects.

I would like to clarify two very important facts:

  1. The district will save $100,000 per year over the life of the bonds. This equates to $2.1 million in net savings to the general fund during the first 20 years the system is in operation.
  2. The district is starting the project in March to qualify for $1.4 million in funding from P.G.&E, which reduces the cost of the project for the district.

I would encourage readers to review the detailed FAQ on the district web page, www.cv.k12.ca.us.

Editor's Note: For more information and updates on the 2012 solar panel projects, click here.

Thomas Clarke March 09, 2012 at 04:25 PM
Jim, are you asserting that the savings in energy over 30 years will generate 100,000 each year over an above the costs of purchasing the system, interest on the costs of purchasing the system, the maintenance and installation of the system? I am not so sure that is true. Perhaps you want to restate the facts again.
Rob Phillips March 09, 2012 at 09:21 PM
Cost of project = $6.6 m. Cost of borrowing $6.6m at 3% for 20 yr = $8.7m. Total cost = $15.3m. Subtract PG&E rebate of $1.4m = $13.9m total cost. Project gross savings per year average is $650k. 20 yrs X $650k = $13m. Loss to District is $900k over 20 yrs or $45k per year. In an emerging technology you never plan beyond 3 to 5 years. Whatever your working with that appears to be a great savings today will be obsolete and a financial liability tomorrow that you don't want to be stuck with. This deal is DOA today, let alone 20 years from now.
Thomas Clarke March 09, 2012 at 11:42 PM
Robert, thank you for the outstanding response to my question. The fact that Jim Negri is the District Superintendent of the CVUSD demonstrates precisely why there are issues in education. 1. Superintendent Negri intentionally did not tell the truth in this column in Patch. Lying is something everyone does. In his case he has deliberately mislead the voters and the district. He has some fiduciary responsibility. He is apparently guilty of misleading voters and the district. He should resign. He should be investigated for criminal and civil misconduct at the least. If possible he is worse than Mary Hayashi. 2. Just because the official said it does not mean it is true. In fact because there is very little in the way of oversight protection, I believe that the public's money is poor spent and invested. In this case the Superintendent says he is saving $100K when in fact he is three hundred per cent wrong, because the program costs $45K a year. 3. Vote out the incumbents. They do not start out as criminals but it takes only one term before they cannot see that their efforts are immoral and wrong. I am sure Superintendent Negri is a nice man. It is his actions and his lies that are deplorable. 4. Bear in mind that Superintendent Negri has a raft of folks that support him. They have been lied to as well. Those in positions of authority should resign or be fired.
Norma Kvool March 10, 2012 at 07:56 AM
Thank you Mr. Phillips for some more realistic numbers for the Solar Project. I think another question should be: who is the contractor on this very expensive project, and how was that contract awarded? This is to much like the "Welcome to Castro Valley" sign that just appeared on Redwood Rd. one day and the majority of CV residents knew nothing about it beforehand. The same thing happened when Bart came to CV. As soon as the parking lot was competed, a corner of it was torn up and apartments were built. We're only hearing about this solar project because the public was "notified" via the CV Forum of the upcoming parking nightmare a few days before the installation was to begin. What other costly surprises await the residents of Castro Valley?
Rob Phillips March 16, 2012 at 06:24 PM
In fairness, I must revise my calculations. My original calculations for the cost of borrowing the $6.6m included the principal as well as the interesest. I then added the principal again to that total. Based on the vague Q&A on the District web page there were other incorrect assumptions. I have since recalulated based on clearer info. Total cost of project at $6.6m plus 4% interest (average bond rate for Ed projects) over 20 years is $9.6m. Projected gross savings (including PGE rebates is $600k per year. $600k for 20 years is $12m. $12m - $9.6m = $2.4m. $2.4m / 20 yrs = $120k per year. So District calculation of saving $2.1m over life of project or $100k per year are correct. The problem is not the District's math, its thier projection of saving $600k per year. It is based on current Solar PhotoVoltaic cost of $0.21 per kWh. This article in Scientific American projects cost will drop continuously for next 20 yrs to $0.06 per kWh. http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/guest-blog/2011/03/16/smaller-cheaper-faster-does-moores-law-apply-to-solar-cells/ (See graph #6). If this turns out to be true then projected savings will most likely turn into a loss. I would need more data to confirm. Bottom line is the CVUSD Board of Ed and thier top K-12 administrators should not be gambling with taxpayer money in energy markets where they have no expertise. The stakes are too high. Remember when Gray Davis locked us into long term energy contracts to save us $? He was recalled!
Analisa Harangozo (Editor) March 16, 2012 at 07:07 PM
The CVHS' high school paper The Olympian actually wrote about it since last October: http://patch.com/A-nzLf. We linked out to their article.
Norma Kvool March 16, 2012 at 07:09 PM
Once again I have to agree with Mr. Phillips, that the highly probable changes to solar technology in the next 20 years will result in a $ loss. That will directly affect our children and the quality of their education. Again, who is the contractor for this project and how and when was the contract awarded? Sadly, I drove down Redwood Rd. yesterday and even if they camoflage those ugly steel posts, Castro Valley's Performing Arts Center and Athletic Stadium will look like a prison.

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