The Encinitas Union School District’s installation of solar panels on it schools continues this summer at Paul Ecke Central Elementary. Photo by Tony Cagala
The Encinitas Union School District’s installation of solar panels on it schools continues this summer at Paul Ecke Central Elementary. Photo by Tony Cagala
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Installation of solar panels continues at Paul Ecke

ENCINITAS — Crews are busy installing rooftop solar panels at Paul Ecke Central Elementary, the third in a series of installations that will ultimately cut the Encinitas Union School District’s power bill nearly in half.

The 432 solar panels that will adorn the rooftop of the Leucadia Elementary will generate enough electricity to power 13 homes, school district officials said.

It’s part of a $10 million energy conservation effort by the school district that looks to cut into the $855,000 price tag to power the district’s nine school sites. The district is paying for the project from the proceeds of a forthcoming $14 million bond sale that is part of the Prop. P bond, which voters approved in 2010.

“When you think that it costs nearly $100,000 to power each of the school sites, cutting that in half with solar panel installations is a big deal,” said Camille Sowinski, a consultant working with the district on its energy initiatives.

The five-year project started last summer, with crews installing solar panels in a carport formation at Mission Estancia and a combination of carport and rooftop panels at Olivenhain Pioneer Elementary. Those schools have seen significant — between 50 and 60 percent — reductions in the power bills in the year since the installation was completed.

In addition to solar panels, Ecke’s classrooms will be affixed with “daylighting tubes” that funnel natural light into classrooms through a series of prism-like glass on the ceiling.

“Not only will these upgrades cut the district’s energy bill by over half, but we will be providing our students and staff with a healthier learning environment by using natural light,” said Gerry Devitt, the district’s director of maintenance, operations, facilities and grounds.

Paul Ecke’s solar panels should be installed before school resumes in August, but it might be a few months before they go online, similar to the timeline of the previous projects, Sowinski said.

The district hasn’t determined what the next school will be in the pipeline, but it will possibly be Ocean Knoll or Capri. It likely won’t occur until next year, however, as solar panel installation can only be done when students are on vacation, Sowinski said.

“That is why we’re looking at a five-year window, during which time we will get one to two schools done each summer,” Sowinski said.

Sowinski said the solar project isn’t just good for energy savings — school district officials are working on weaving it into the fourth-grade curriculum. Students will analyze the savings generated by renewable energy as well as track energy consumption.

The installations are expected to be completed by 2019.

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