School board requests bids for solar panel projects

February 12, 2023 — by William Norwood and Divya Vadlakonda
The conceptual layout of the solar panels as of January 2023.  
The board has made plans to issue a request for proposal by the end of February.

Plans for installing solar panels at Saratoga and Los Gatos High and the district office appear to be moving ahead, though no final decisions have been made. The district has partnered with NV5, a provider of technical engineering and consulting solutions.

The motion to prepare and request the RFP — a request for proposal that the board will post to formally bid for potential vendors — was approved at the Jan. 17 board meeting. Superintendent Bill Sanderson stated that NV5 will assist with its preparation as well as the evaluation of potential vendors, contracting support and technical construction support for the process.

Once bids are received, the board will make a decision on which company to proceed at a later meeting, specifically taking into account the best net present value, skill set, background and experience of each contractor. The RFP is projected to be issued at the end of February, with the vendor selection taking place by March.

An energy audit was previously approved by the board and is currently underway. This audit will assess how the current electrical systems can be improved. 

As of January, the audit has already concluded that the overhead lights on both LGHS and SHS campuses are outdated, which in turn is increasing energy costs. The full results of the audit will reveal the possibility of solar panels and their conceptual design.

Mike Borger, a representative for NV5, suggested that it would be beneficial to update the equipment before the addition of solar panels to ensure maximum electrical efficiency. 

Discussions regarding the locations of the solar panels are currently underway, with the plan being to install the panels over the front parking lot of the SHS campus in the form of carport canopies.

Additionally, board president Katherine Tseng asked about putting solar on the SHS staff parking lot in addition to the front parking lot, an idea that Borger said was not considered because spread out panel designs are much more expensive than the colocated panels of the current design. However, amending the locations of the solar is still a viable option if the district pushes for it. 

The board has also discussed the prospect of putting solar panels on 123 New York, a piece of land behind LGHS that recently came into ownership of the district. However, a potential problem that Borger noted is that solar panels on that parcel may impede traffic flow.

When a company is selected, construction will begin as soon as it is feasible. The panels are projected to take up to 3 to 6 months and start construction in December 2024. 

For many in the district, the approval of the RFP signifies a big step in the right direction. Carolyn Pyun, Green Committee chairwoman, was among the many students — most from the Green Committee — who pushed to put solar panels on the board’s agenda and was happy with the progress being made.

“This step did fuel some hope in me as being a start of something our committee believes is necessary and important,” Pyun said. “I’m aware of its long-term nature so I’m glad they decided to take steps toward it.”

1 view this week