News - May 19, 2010

Menlo Park scraps plan for solar panels on new gymnasium

by Sean Howell

An interesting subplot to the story of the Burgess Gym construction appears to be nearing a close, with Menlo Park city management recommending against installing solar panels on the Burgess Gymnasium.

Originally, the city had said that John Arrillaga, the Palo Alto billionaire who is building the gym for the city and paying for the bulk of its construction, would provide solar panels. When that turned out not to be the case, management asked the City Council to approve city funds for the panels, saying the city would eventually make its money back on the investment.

At the insistence of Councilman John Boyle, the council asked city staff to study the project a little more before authorizing the funds. And, in fact, staff found that the project wouldn't pencil out — it would take 48 years for the city to recoup its investment, not the 15 or 20 originally predicted.

The lack of solar panels creates a problem, because it could jeopardize the building's attainment of LEED Silver certification, an expensive process that the city is paying for. Accordingly, management is recommending other measures that would count on the "LEED Scorecard": upgrading heating, ventilating and air-conditioning systems, and installing dimmers for the lights, which would cost less than the solar panels and recoup the city's investment more quickly.

The council will consider the issue at its meeting Tuesday, May 18, at 7 p.m. in the council chambers, located in the Civic Center complex.


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