Summit Cove solar flare-up: Residents speak against panels at school board meeting
Ryan Summerlin August 16, 2013
It wasn’t an agenda item, but that didn’t prevent the sparking of a brief conversation about the controversial solar array project at Summit Cove Elementary School during Tuesday’s Summit School District Board of Education meeting.
Sensing the larger-than-usual audience attending Tuesday’s meeting hoping for an update, board President Margaret Carlson said the project was omitted from Tuesday’s agenda because, for now, the fate of the solar arrays is out of the school district’s hands.
“We are committed to finding a solution, which will be favorable to the community, and are actively pursuing all options which would allow for the removal of the south array,” Carlson said, reading from an email recently sent to Summit Cove residents.
To that end, Carlson outlined several steps the school district and the county have taken since last month when Syndicated Solar first broke ground on the south array.
Among those steps is a stop-work order issued by Summit County officials to Syndicated Solar until the appropriate building permits are acquired. Initially, Syndicated Solar went through the state’s permit application process and has since reapplied with the county’s planning department.
Two exceptions apply to the county’s stop-work order, Carlson said. Syndicated Solar is permitted to remove support stakes where the north array was originally slated for construction and may also backfill a trench that would have connected the south array to Summit Cove Elementary.
Although a decision about whether the south array will be removed is still to be determined by the county’s building permit process, the proposed plan for the north array is to relocate its solar panels to the roof of Summit Cove Elementary. That plan must first be approved by Xcel Energy, Carlson said.
Lastly, Carlson said she and Mark Rydberg, director of business services for the Summit School District, have formed a committee with concerned Summit Cove citizens, including Steve Wilcox, Peggy Hiller, Mary Elaine Moore and Lee Wasson, to provide a mode of communication to Summit Cove residents as the school district continues to navigate toward an acceptable resolution.
Steve Wilcox attended Tuesday’s meeting as one of four residents who addressed the board during the public comment period.
In addition to cautioning school board members from relying on the county or Xcel to resolve the issue, Wilcox asked about the enforceability of the contract between the school district and Syndicated Solar since Monday’s announcement that the Denver-based solar energy company was acquired by Real Goods Solar Inc., headquartered in Louisville.
Walter Rumpf, marketing manager for Syndicated Solar, said Wednesday the company was in the process of drafting a statement about the deal, but added the contract wouldn’t be rendered void simply because of this week’s acquisition. A special purpose entity, Summit Spear Point Solar, LLC, was created to protect the school against any company defaulting, Rumpf said.
Although little was said about the future of the solar arrays behind Summit Cove Elementary, Heidi Pace, Summit School District superintendent, said board and school administration officials have learned a lot about proper communication with the community.
School district officials are drafting a policy change that would require them to work with local homeowner associations and to pull the addresses of registered voters to inform residents who may be affected by large-scale projects in the future, Pace said.