Update on Olympia’s Solar Panel Fire

By: Diane Benjamin

I submitted a Freedom of Information Act request, all of the below is what I received.

Olympia paid $3.9 million for the panels, they still owe $2.68 million on the bond they floated.

In the presentation to the School Board they claim:

Annual savings is totally dependent on the weather and the price of electricity. Solar panels are expected to last 25-30 years with decreasing electricity production as they age. Do the math. The bond numbers don’t include the interest they are paying, it sure looks like going solar is going to COST them money, even without the fire.

That doesn’t include the fire damage and what the Olympia taxpayers are paying to remedy and prevent future fires:

Olympia trusted the sales “literature” instead of Google. Fires aren’t that rare.

See the presentation made to the School Board here: https://www.canva.com/design/DAFmdtASqrA/EhcMXAft9eWJSp6gKGFrNQ/view#3

Olympia hired a company named True North to investigate and report on the damage, including air quality. The report is 105 pages long, I don’t know what it cost. Instead of providing the report, a recap of the findings is in an email:

The below shows part of my FOIA request and the response I received:

Since I didn’t request bids, assume all of these are actual invoices.

Textile cleaning – $3,288.92. Big Work Authorization applies to this bill

Roof Repairs Task Order and Roof Repair appear to go together – total $408,000

The Wilcox Electric bill to disconnect the solar panels was $5,805.

From emails a company named Prism was hired to clean the cafeteria appliances and school electronics. I do not have that bill.

See the Blue Sky work authorization below. It appears this is for work inside the school, not roof repairs. T&M means Time and Materials. Add another $450,000.

If you are keeping a running total – it’s over $867,000.

Refer back to what the Building and Grounds Maintenance Committee recommended at the May Board meeting:

  1. Infrared cameras and drones
  2. Automatic shutoffs
  3. Certified solar electrician on staff
  4. Solar review of the elementary school

At the May meeting the Board was presented with a drone quote: $10,463.95

No information was provided on the other 3 items. No information was provided pertaining to how much of this cost is covered by insurance either.

The cost of the learning loss for students who returned to remote learning can’t be measured.

Unit 5 just approved buying solar panels. Tri-valley appears to still be discussing them.

This story may be updated.

4 thoughts on “Update on Olympia’s Solar Panel Fire

  1. It is so sad how many inept people are elected to positions that required them make the best decisions in spending their bosses (voters) money.

  2. These people just can’t help them themselves. They spend our tax money recklessly. The Return on Investment will likely never be realized. They get an F- regarding their fiduciary responsibility to the taxpayers.

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