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Will neighbors like solar panels?
Manteca Unified solar project in construction discussion phase
Parking shade structures doubling as solar energy panels similar to the ones shown may soon become part of the landscape at Manteca Unified neighborhood schools. - photo by Photo Contributed

Starting today, poster-sized photographs of proposed solar-power installations at selected Manteca Unified school campuses will begin an exhibit tour with the purpose of gathering public input.

The photographs, which will be displayed at the various school locations, were made available for preview Tuesday night during the regular meeting of the Board of Trustees. The display was made in conjunction with the discussion, and subsequent action, taken by the board which took the multimillion-dollar energy conservation project to the next level. The board unanimously approved the resolution directing Superintendent Jason Messer to enter into final negotiations with Indoor Environmental Services and its associates to “construct energy conservation measures and construct, install, operate and maintain photovoltaic systems and wind turbines on selected district sites to produce energy.”

Messer explained during the discussion prior to the vote that this resolution gives him permission to make the next step to deal with the final negotiations and refinements of the contract that he will sign.

With the board’s action giving him the green light to take that step, the $31 million renewable energy project of the district now goes to the next level involvng discussions focusing on the construction phase. A new district team made up of Director of Facilities Susan Bell and department staffer Aaron Bowers will be involved in this next phase. Victoria Brunn, the district’s energy education specialist and sustainability coordinator who worked on the first phase of the project, will remain part of this new team in an advisory capacity.

The project aims to make the district less dependent on PG&E utility costs, with the expectation that the district will eventually own the power-generator system that will be installed. Initial figure crunching has shown that energy savings realized could be as much as $48 million cumulatively over a period of 25 years when the district will own the system, or about $3.2 million savings a year in PG&E bills.

The project is also expected to include a Regional Environmental Studies Center at the district facility, plus electric vehicle charging stations, HVAC replacements to further lower energy and deferred maintenance costs, and monitors installed at every school site.