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So Much, Packed in So Little

January 28, 2011

I caught this short AP article this morning, and I thought it merited a couple comments.

Students and parents are angry over plans to install solar panels on a California school’s front lawn, a popular gathering spot for youngsters.

They say the Huntington Beach School District decision to install the solar panels takes away student open space and obstructs views of Dwyer Middle School.

Okay… I’m already intrigued.  If you went to the parents and said something along the lines of, “hey we’re going to go green on the school!” they’d probably be resoundingly supportive.  Hey, it’s California.  But the practical application of the actual solar panels looks to be proving a bit tricky.  I’d note that solar panels are reasonably heavy and require a fair amount of space.  So going green means you need a bit of green space to actually get these things in place.  I know of some places that are using parking lot space to mount the panels, and then they also get shade for cars.  Either the school couldn’t do it with their particular logistics, or they just didn’t think of it.  But that said, there’s always a cost for being friendly to Mama Gaia.

Oh, and speaking of cost…

Parents say they didn’t know about the $8 million project until it was approved in October. Solar panels at Huntington Beach schools are expected to save the district about $75,000 a year in energy costs.

Let me grab that calculator… that’s 106+ years at the current energy rate before these things pay off.  Yes, energy rates (especially in California) are likely to shoot through the roof.  Yes, solar panels are usually only rated for a couple decades.  Yes, this seems like a really dumb expenditure if your purpose is to actually save money.

I admire organizations or people who desire to save money on energy.  I also wonder if the desire to save is focused instead on more fuzzy results that actually shield one from grasping what’s a bad idea vs. what’s a good one.  Seriously?  Y’all thought that spending a few mil to save a small amount was worth hiding from the parents long enough to get the panels in, so that the students would then lose a place to hang and do dumb-kid things?

I don’t think there’s much of a strategy component to this (if I’m going to stay pure to the purpose of the blog…), but I do think there’s a decided lack of strategic thinking in play that needs to be rewarded with a comment.

Updated: Jazz Shaw also picked up on the fact that the parents are complaining because this project is being done by Chevron.  Big Oil, BAD!

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