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.”
City Council votes to halt Montecito Heights solar construction project. The Eastsider
Top photo by Martha Benedict; bottom rendering from Occidental College website