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Faulty Solar Panels Removed From San Diego Schools

Aired 9/17/12 on KPBS News.

San Diego Unified removed solar panels that posed a potential fire risk from 24 schools. But, the District plans to add new solar panels at 15 more.

Faulty solar panels that became corroded and posed a possible fire risk were removed from 24 San Diego Unified Schools. According to a district spokesman, solar panels provide about 10 percent of total power for San Diego schools. He said that will not change.

The faulty panels, manufactured by Solar Integrated Technologies, were removed this summer.

The district has had a "power-purchase agreement" since 2005. GE was a "passive investor" and the solar panels from Solar Integrated Technologies were provided for free, and the district agreed to buy power generated. When the panels were found to be defective, GE removed them since Solar Integrated Technologies had since gone out of business.

Executive Director of Auxiliary Services, Drew Rowlands, said the 24 schools never got all of their power from solar.

"You're always having some amount of power being drawn from SDG&E whether it's a cloudy day or at night. And so what happens is the solar panel goes away and they'll just their full load of power from SDG&E," said Rowlands.

Despite the problems the district had with these solar panels, Rowlands said they will still use renewable energy at the school district when they can.

He said: "We're always interested in being able to provide a sustainable source of energy. It's not all about money. It's also an example for our kids. So, we'll keep on looking at it and working through it."

Though the damaged panels won't be replaced, new panels are being installed in 15 other San Diego schools.

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