The Los Angeles Daily News reported on LAUSD’s solar power initiative.
The most recent addition to the school district’s solar applications was the construction of carports with solar panels mounted on top. Not a bad idea – as the article points out, no drilling holes in rooftops which could lead to leaks. Nice for the cars, too.
“Los Angeles Unified launched its solar-power initiative in 2009, when it installed a rooftop array at Canoga High. By 2014, it plans to have nearly 60 solar projects erected districtwide, including 26 in the Valley. The entire system will generate a total of 21.3 megawatts of electricity, resulting in savings of $350,000 to $400,000 a year, said Kelly Schmader, chief of the district’s Facilities Division,” according to the News.
No mention was made of maintenance costs.
The full project cost was reported as $143,000,000 (budgeted); a net $98,000,000 after rebates.
The article begs the question: what is the payback period? But the question was not raised by the reporter.
You don’t need to be an LAUSD AP math student to figure it out – it’s 245 years on the net total. That does not factor in panel replacement, which I suspect will have to occur at least a few times over the next 100 years. There’s also interest expense. I realize it’s not as simple a calculation as that. After all, utility rates will increase, which should shorten the payback period; however, I suspect it would still be pretty long.
Perhaps the reporter got the savings wrong, or the facilities director misspoke. In any event, a confirmation is in order.
It would be nice if the LAUSD published its full assumptions to allow adequate public scrutiny. While disclosures were probably made in the bond offering and the ballot measure that authorized it, it is a safe bet that most people voted yes without thinking of the cost-benefit relationship. The program was launched in 2009, so the initial assumptions could have changed substantially.
When an organization is as financially crippled as the LAUSD, capital budgeting is more essential than ever. Projects must be weighed against alternative needs.
If the article is correct, we need answers.