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Momentum is picking up for more solar panels to be installed at Santa Monica High School, which the local school board recently designated to receive $180 million in bond money for facility improvements.

District officials said as the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District increases spending on technology infrastructure, it sees solar power as an attractive option that can provide long-term savings.

All buildings that are under construction or part of modernization plans will be solar-ready, according to district spokeswoman Gail Pinsker.

“SMMUSD is always looking to use resources efficiently, contribute toward sustainability initiatives in the communities we serve and set a good example for the next generation to follow,” Pinsker said.

It seems especially likely that some of Samohi’s $180-million allocation — part of the $385 million for major school upgrades that voters approved in 2012 through Measure ES — will be spent on solar power.

The rooftop panels, which convert sunlight into electricity through a few different methods, have become increasingly popular in recent years. The amount of solar power installed in the United States has increased from 1.2 gigawatts in 2008 to an estimated 17.5 gigawatts last year — enough to power 3.5 million average American homes, according to the federal Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy.

Solar panels are already in place at several SMMUSD campuses, including Franklin, Grant, McKinley, Muir, Roosevelt, Rogers and Webster elementary schools as well as the Santa Monica Alternative School House. There are also solar panels at Cabrillo and Point Dume Marine Science elementary schools in Malibu.

The district saved $50,236 by using the alternative energy source in 2013-14, the first year of its solar program, Pinsker said.

The potential addition of solar panels at Santa Monica High would build on the school’s efforts to use renewable power.

About a decade ago, with the support of students in the Samohi Solar Alliance, a solar thermal unit was installed to heat Drake Pool. It was not functioning for a while but was recently rejuvenated and is now in use, Pinsker said, although savings figures were not immediately available.

The solar alliance, which was involved in the restoration of the thermal unit, works on a variety of environmental issues and projects each year.

The club’s current president, Claire Goldberg, said she wants to extend Samohi’s progressive energy legacy. She urged school board members at a recent meeting to consider setting aside Measure ES funds to cover the installation of solar panels on the school’s science and technology building.

“It’s not just important to students, but to parents and community members and hopefully all of you on the board,” she said. “This would make our school environmentally friendly and save our school money. I can’t think of any reason why you wouldn’t want to do this.”

Club co-president Michael Lappen said the district could save on electricity costs while reducing Samohi’s carbon footprint.

“We’ve got one Earth,” he said. “Every little thing counts. We can set an example for other schools. They will eventually pay for themselves.”

Board member Ralph Mechur voiced support for the projects. He said solar panels should be installed not only at the flagship campus but also at other sites in the district.

“It’s something that’s innovative,” said Mechur, an architect who has served on the city Planning Commission. “We’ll be thinking globally and acting locally, and we’ll be inspiring our students.”

Contact Jeff Goodman at 310-573-8351, jeff@www.smdp.com or on Twitter.

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