SD Unified removes defective solar panels from school roofs

District installing new panels


The San Diego Unified School District is removing solar panels installed years ago on schools and other district buildings because they are defective.
Defective solar panels on 24 district schools and on the roof of district headquarters were removed over the summer, and district officials told 10News they had no choice. 
"When we looked at it, looked at the safety of our students and our staff, we just felt the right thing to do was to remove the panels," said Drew Rowlands of the San Diego Unified School District.
Rowlands said the panels were defective, and he told 10News the district first became aware there might be a problem when the company that manufactured the panels went bankrupt. Rowlands said an investigation revealed the same panels installed elsewhere also had problems -- problems that could ultimately be dangerous. 
"Taken to its greatest extent, it could cause a fire," Rowlands said.
The agreement the district entered into for installation of the panels is complicated. They allowed Michigan-based Solar Integrated Technologies to install the panels at no charge with the agreement that the district would then buy power from Solar Integrated Technologies. 
10News wanted to know whether the district should have done more research on that company before entering into an agreement with them, and Rowlands responded, "The defect played out just in recent times, so I don't think it's anything anyone would've known at the time we entered into the agreement."
The district is not abandoning solar power, as new panels of a different design are going up on schools and other district buildings at 31 sites around the county. 
Rowlands said that new power will all come online by the end of the year, helping to offset the power lost from the removal of old panels.
A parent at Normal Heights elementary told 10News she's happy about the installation of the new panels. 
"It's great. I mean, it's something new and good for our school and it's going to be a great thing," said parent Valerie Valenzuela.
Rowlands said within a couple of years, the district expects to pay about $40,000 more a year due to the loss of the defective solar panels. 
He said whether they are replaced in the future will depend on whether voters pass Proposition Z this fall, which would help fund general improvements in the district.
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