College Trustees OK Solar Deal

Published in Desert Dispatch

College Trustees OK Solar Deal

Motivated to slash electricity bills so Barstow Community College can invest more in the classroom, the Board of Trustees on Wednesday approved a $2.49 million contract with Borrego Solar Systems Inc.

The contract calls for Borrego Solar Systems to build a ground-mounted single-axis tracking system, at 930 kW-dc in size, on the college’s campus. The design and approval by the Division of the State Architect is expected to take three to four months and construction would take two to three months. The system is expected to be operational by the end of the year or early next year.

“Based on our investment, we probably will get a 55 percent return on it over 25 years, which is a good thing, because right now we are getting no return, ” said Clerk Dr. Ted Baca just before the vote. “Right now we are paying a bill and it’s going to a utility company. We will have a little more mastery of our destiny. We are going to take that money we are saving and use it where we are supposed, in the classrooms for instruction on this campus.”

Baca said a lot of time was spent by trustees and staff in researching before making final decisions. “We are there and that’s the important thing,” he said.

Vice President Philip Harris was curious about the warranty on the last five years of the contract.

“It’s an option to purchase,” said George Walters, vice president of administrative services. “Borrego was nice enough to pay for all labor associated with any repair after the first 10 years. So we would (only) have to purchase the actual piece of equipment that failed. And really we are talking about either a panel or inverter. There really isn’t anything else that could go wrong.

“We do have the option after year 11 to purchase,” Walter said. “But we are not sure what the technology is going to look like 10 years from now because it is changing so fast. So to lock ourselves in and pay the additional half-million dollars, whatever it was, didn’t seem prudent.”

Clyde S. Murley, solar program managing consultant with the Community College League of California, recommended to trustees in April that the college go with a larger system than originally proposed. He said the system would cost less than previously anticipated.

“We can’t make your Edison bill go away,” Murley said. “But what you can do is what I call creating a minimum bill. This (solar system) should start approaching a minimal bill. Paying for the wires that carry the electricity will never go away.”

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