Tustin Unified School District proposes to install shade structure photovoltaic arrays at Pioneer Middle School. The proposed project would involve installing carport shade structures to house the solar energy panel systems and would occur over parking lots in the north and east of the campus. Six structures would be installed over paved parking lots, but would not impact the use of the parking lots. Thirty-one ornamental landscape trees would be removed to allow for unshaded solar energy collection. To connect the panels to the school's electrical system, the wiring would be installed underground and connected directly to the school's existing electrical system. The solar systems would produce approximately 80% of the school's electricity demand, reducing the District's reliance on utility-supplied electricity and improving the environment by reducing the District's contribution to global warming emissions.
No increases in enrollment, capacity or intensity of uses are proposed as part of this project. The project would be installed per Division of the State Architect (DSA) approved design specifications. The project would be executed per appropriate and current District standards, guidelines and construction Best Management Practices (BMPs). The new solar structures would serve as a campus improvements, and as such, the beneficiaries of the project include the school's students, faculty, staff and members of the community.
CEQA Guidelines Section 21080.35 provides that solar energy systems installed on the roof of an existing building or on an existing parking lot are statutorily exempt from CEQA. The project would enhance the renewable energy capabilities of the school and would not alter or expand the use of the parking lots. Further, a review of the possible exceptions to the exemption (CEQA Guidelines Section 21080.35) determined that no exceptions exist and the school project qualifies for the statutory exemption. Greater detail can be found in the Supplement to Pioneer Middle School Solar Energy Project.