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Consultant advises closer look at Rossmoor Solar Initiative

By Cathy Tallyn

Staff writer


Residents should take another more critical look at a multimillion-dollar plan for Rossmoor’s largest Mutuals before greenlighting one giant solar energy project later this summer, with construction slated for early 2022.

That was the upshot of suggestions made by GRF-hired consultant William Golove, who looked at the proposed Rossmoor Solar Initiative. He identified benefits and risks so Mutual Operations (MOD) could compile a list of questions, enabling the Mutuals to evaluate the plan. Golove has consulted on GRF’s twophase solar project.

He didn’t mince words. “It’s not a deal worth voting on,” he told the GRF Board last Thursday. “There isn’t enough savings to do all the things (promised).

“It’s an admirable vision,” he added, but “it’s riddled with flaws and should not merit further consideration in its existing form.”
The Rossmoor Solar Initiative is backed by the Sustainable Rossmoor club and some residents who have been active lately in drumming up support for it. A quick decision is necessary because after November, PG& E wouldn’t be obligated to pay for a new project’s excess power.

The idea is to reduce energy costs by generating enough solar power for residents’ use with extra power sold back to PG& E. It’s estimated to cost $70 million to build the project for First, Second and Third Mutuals.

CEO Tim O’Keefe said GRF has a “fiduciary duty” to help Mutuals evaluate plans, adding, “We have no opinion one way or the other.”

Plans call for a no-bid study by Table Rock Infrastructure Partners, and if they determine the idea is feasible, Mutuals would partner with Table Rock to finance, build and operate this system. There would be no up-front costs, according to backers.

“This is no way to go about it,” Golove said. He cited his 30 years of experience and commitment to the solar field. “This is a group of amateurs,” he said.

The proposal is far too open-ended, overstates possible energy savings and underestimates costs, he said. Plus, there isn’t enough space on the Mutuals’ roofs for all the solar panels needed, he said. He questioned how there could be no up-front costs, the cost-effectiveness and feasibility of a micro-grid, whether there actually would be government grants available and whether the project could handle the balance of supply and demand.

Golove said he stood to gain nothing by delivering his assessment because, “I don’t want this work.”
GRF directors asked a few questions during the half hour devoted to the matter. At one point, GRF President Dwight Walker said, “GRF is not taking any action. This is a tool.”

However, during the Residents Forum at the beginning of the meeting, a few residents questioned GRF’s motives.

The study, John Murphy said, “second guesses decisions taken by Mutuals.”

Sustainable Rossmoor President Brad Waite said Mutuals 1, 2, 3, 4, 8 and 70 are interested in the Solar Initiative. “They have put in thousands of hours on this to save owners money on electrical bills,” he said, adding, “Solar is promising.”

John Moe, who is president of First Mutual, said he was speaking on his own behalf and wanted “to try to move this concept along.”

In other business, the Board imposed a ban until the end of the year on use of barbecue grills in the Shady Glen picnic area at Hillside. Directors were worried about the area with dry grass and trees catching fire and spreading to the manors above it. Director Carl Brown said he owned one of
those homes.

Residents can still use the two large built-in barbecues in nearby Sportsmen’s Park, as well as grills in the Dollar picnic area and at Buckeye Grove. There also can be barbecues at Peacock Plaza.

However, during a red flag warning, no outside barbecues can be used on GRF property.

Directors agreed with Board member Dale Harrington’s idea to post no barbecue signs in picnic areas during a red flag warning. Securitas, Rossmoor’s private security company, will oversee and enforce the new policy. Public Safety Manager Tom Cashion recommended the immediate ban because of high fire danger. The suggestion to close down Shady Glen was made by the local fire district and Cal Fire, he said.

Board members also accepted the LGBTQ+ Alliance’s donation of two benches for a new Building Bridges Garden facing the lawn near the back of the Event Center. Plaques on the benches will include the name of the group and recognize Carole J. Morton, founder of the Rossmoor Lesbian
Social Club.

In a separate matter, directors also approved a policy that governs the placement of signs or plaques on GRF property.

The Board approved a recommendation from the Compensation Committee to increase funds in the 2022 budget for a salary increase of $10,528 for CEO Tim O’Keefe (matching the 3.8% set aside for non-union employees) and up to $10,000 for performance recognition. The final decision will be
made by the Board at its November/December meeting.

Directors also ratified $171,000 in contractual costs next year for union employees, which include a raise and money for health and welfare programs and pension expenses.

After many months of consideration, the Board decided to consider at its September meeting setting term limits for residents who serve on GRF advisory committees for aquatics, audit, finance, Fitness Center and golf.