By Raymond Mendoza
Walnut – Residents once again spoke during the public comment section of the latest Walnut City Council meeting to disagree with Mount San Antonio College; however, this time complaints were made not against the ongoing concerns about a proposed parking structure.
This time, residents were opposed to the location of a planned “solar farm” project that would have the college integrate a 2.2 megawatt, ground-mounted solar photovoltaic system, that could save the campus nearly half a million dollars in annual energy fees.
The location in contention is the Mt. SAC-owned property at the corner of Grand Avenue and Temple Avenue/Amar Road – which is commonly known as the “Christmas tree” lot – where Christmas trees, strawberries, and pumpkins are sold at different times of the year.
Walnut resident, Patrick Johnson, said the proposed solar farm looks bigger than any building that the college currently has, and called the proposed project, “disgusting.” Johnson stated that he knew several lawyers that could help stop the campus’ clean energy project.
Many of the residents that spoke out against the solar farm all shared the same sentiment – that they were “not against solar power,” but that Mt. SAC should not build the solar panels because the rows of panels would ruin the resident’s views of the hills, cause traffic congestion during its construction, and others even questioned if Mt. SAC had the authority to build the solar farm on their parcel of land.
Jill Dolan, Director of Public Affairs for Mt. San Antonio College, said the college administration has the best interest of the students and environment in mind, since the solar farm will help the campus on its way to energy independence. The campus would save $480,000 in annual energy costs.
According to Dolan, the solar farm project has been a long-time objective for Mt. SAC, and that the campus did an Environmental Impact Report in 2013 which showed that the construction and finished solar farm would have “no new or exacerbated signification environmental impacts associated with the proposed project.”
As of Sept. 9, the college chose Borrego Solar Systems, Inc. to perform the construction of the venture, and is funding the $5 million project through Proposition 39 Clean Energy Funds, California Solar Incentive Funds, and California Energy Commission loans. Dolan said the college is planning to start construction in late spring/early summer of 2016.
“Mt. SAC is deeply committed to pursuing opportunities through which we can be thoughtful stewards of both the environment and taxpayers’ funds,” Dolan said. “Mt. SAC is proud to be a leader in energy efficiency and water conservation efforts, and we have been recognized at both the local and state level for our cost-savings accomplishments. This solar project would save the college nearly half a million dollars a year and move Mt. SAC even closer to energy independence.”
Due to the outcry of residents, however, the City Council members agreed to discuss the solar farm project during its Oct. 14 meeting.