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OC students protest school solar panels

January 27, 2011 12:00:00 AM PST
Students at Dwyer Middle School in Huntington Beach say they're proud of their school. But they don't want huge solar panels on the front lawn.

The students protested a plan to build the solar panels Thursday.

"My grandma went to this school and it's like a historic landmark," said student Jacody Madrid.

Cement footings mark the area of the future solar structure. The Huntington Beach City School District decided last year to allow Chevron Energy Solutions to install solar panels at Dwyer Middle School and four other schools as part of an $8 million project. This makes Dwyer a pioneer in green energy solutions.

"The district wide project at all of our schools will result in a savings of $75,000 of the general fund each year," said Kathy Kessler from the Huntington Beach City School District.

But amidst protests, district officials say they held additional public meetings.

"We're not opposed to solar we totally embrace it," said parent Kelly Cason. "We just want it in a different location which we told the school board when it was communicated to us."

Some parents have suggested placing it on the roof so the beauty of the historical school is not covered. However officials say that's structurally not safe.

"We have better placement, more efficiency by the ice plant," said Cason. "It's 99 percent efficiency as opposed to in the front."

"We estimate the cost to be a minimum of $150,000 to $200,000 to make that move," said Kessler

Authorities in December said after hearing concerns, they modified plans to lower the panels to make it less of a distraction, as well as holding another public meeting to listen to concerns. The board upheld their decision to put solar panels in place.

A couple hundred students and parents continue to protest, joined by attorney Gloria Allred who encouraged them to exercise their freedom of speech.

However, despite the protests officials say the solar structures should be in place in a couple of months.

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