More attention shines on solar panel projects in Eagle Rock and Montecito Heights

The City Council is scheduled to revisit the issue of the Montecito Heights solar panel project on Wednesday, with the city’s Fire Department presenting a report about the potential risks posed by the 1,400 panels being installed on a hillside near Debs Park. Meanwhile, in Eagle Rock,  Occidental College’s Board of Trustees has given preliminary approval to build 5,000 panels on a campus hillside in what is described as the biggest solar array in Los Angeles.

The brief report on the Montecito Heights solar array (pictured above) by city fire marshal Jimmy Hill focused on the risk of high voltage shock to posed by solar array’s electrical system.  The report said:

“This high voltage shock hazard is constant during daylight hours. If water is applied to extinguish an adjacent or nearby fire, the hazards to Firefighters are exacerbated since PV [photo voltaic] systems components may be compromised by extreme temperatures encountered in fire conditions.”

The fire marshal’s report was one of several requested by Councilman Ed Reyes, who represents Montecito Heights, in late September when the City Council ordered a temporary halt to the installation of  a solar array the size of a football field on property owned by the Broadview nursing home on Griffin Avenue.

Meanwhile, an even larger, hillside solar array is in the works nearby in Eagle Rock on the campus of Occidental College.

A story in Occidental Magazine said the college’s board of trustees have tentatively approved the installation of 5,000 solar panels on a hillside near the school’s soccer fields. The board approved spending up to $7.7 million on the project, which would generate 1.1 megawatt of power and cut the college’s annual energy bill by $250,000. However, the solar array (shown in the rendering) won’t move forward until a fundraiser for another campus renovation project is completed.  Physics professor Daniel Snowden-Ifft, who spearheaded the solar panel project, told the magazine he is optimistic that the Occidental College solar project will be built:

“While Snowden-Ifft anticipates some pushback from the College’s neighbors regarding the specifics of the project–which, as approved by the board, will be greenlighted following the completion of fundraising for the ongoing Swan Hall renovation–“I do think something is going to happen, and it’s going to look pretty much as we’ve described it.”

College spokesman Jim Tranquada said the project remains in the early stages of planning. “Our project is still in development — nothing has been submitted to the city yet,” he said via email. “When it is ready, we will follow our standard practice of presenting it to neighborhood councils and other local groups
before sending it to the city.”

Related posts:
City Council votes to halt Montecito Heights solar construction project. The Eastsider

Top photo by Martha Benedict; bottom rendering from Occidental College website


  1. How long until we get to vote out Ed Reyes?

  2. Roofs people, roofs! Stop destroying valuable open space!!!!!!! I like the way they show the parking area covered with solar panels, that is a great location as are roofs but way in the distance in the rendering are the solar panels covering the hillside. Even the promoters of this project know to downplay that aspect of the solar field.

  3. I thought this was a progressive corner of the country when I moved here, but I am quickly learning otherwise.

  4. I thought the Northeast had strict Hillside Area development conditions to preserve the character of the hillsides. This should trigger red flags with Soils & Hydrology in environmental review.

  5. Hypocrisy. Just build the damn things. We shouldn’t be destroying pristine desert habitats, if we can’t build some solar panels on underutilized land in the middle of the city.

  6. Its rediculous to wait on Swan Hall- that was supposed to be finished over the summer and I can simply not see it happening anytime soon. Meanwhile city permits only give you a year to build the solar- MULTITASK.

  7. The field system going up in the image obviously had to have passed pre-inspection to have even gotten poles into the ground and after construction starts the fire marshal comes in to delay?Pretty weird and absolutely unheard of on the east coast.There are busy bodies with personal agendas for sure,that happens everywhere but sandbagging something already approved should carry its own fine.At that point you are on on contract time and any delay penalties should be assesed to the city fire marshal office.
    The reason you put solar in fields is because you can control the angle with either tracking or at the least,manual,seasonal(once yearly) adjustable arrays so that you can adjust for summer and winter.The gains in doing this are massive and you have the ability to point everything perfectly south.On roofs,the angle is usually off axis from south and your pitch is set unless you use tilt legs in which you have to lift something 300-1,000lbs. yearly which is unfeasible for the homeowner.Pole mounted arrays are ballasted and unbelievably simple to maintain while giving more than 2.5 peak sun hours per day while allowing the home/business owner to handle seasonal tilt adjustments and cleaning.
    What i really dont get is all of the protests over permitting and other subterranian grumbling over solar arrays.In 1978 Carter passed a law making it federally protected that if you want to create your own power,you can.No one can tell you what to build or not on your own land.Public or state land i can see the issue but solar pole mounted arrays are essentially benign trees?In the desert wont the ground shade help certain species by creating cooler areas for them?I really need to see what the arguments are and if there is fact behind the hand wringing or if it is just more subterfuge from utilities who are now getting we are stealing their market share.Dominion power here in VA is notorious for shadow games with us and trying to sandbag the solar revolution.

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