Navigating the solar panel installation at Archie Williams

Redwood High Schools existing solar canopies, before construction on the new solar installations begin.
Redwood High School’s existing solar canopies, before construction on the new solar installations begin.
Audrey Tucker

This semester, Archie Williams students and staff will lose access to the front parking lot to make way for the building of four solar canopies and eight electric vehicle (EV) charging stations. Construction will likely take around two months to complete, and will bring cost-efficient green energy to the school. In the meantime, students and staff must navigate increased traffic and limited parking.

As of Sept. 20, the project has been set back a few weeks due to a delay in approval from the Division of the State Architect to begin fabrication.

We can’t do anything without this approval, and hope it comes any day now. It’s just a waiting game at this point,” said Archie Williams Assistant Principal Kaki McLachlan.

This project is district-wide, so solar panels are also being installed at Tam High School and additional solar panels are being installed at Redwood High School. 

“The motivation is to produce our own green energy to put electricity back into our grid, and to save money,” said McLachlan.

Tamalpais Union High School District (TUHSD) expects to save approximately $157,000 per year in energy costs with the project.

The school plans to install four solar canopies, holding 774 individual solar panels, across the main parking lot. Three will span the lot east to west, and one will be lined up near the outdoor basketball court. The project also includes the addition of eight EV charging stations.

Archie Williams High School’s front parking lot before construction begins on the solar panel canopies. (Audrey Tucker)

McLachlan explains that a week before construction starts, Archie Williams will have a “soft close” of the front lot so that the school community becomes aware of the new pattern. After the installation process begins, the entire front parking lot will be closed off to parking, as well as student drop-off and pick-up. In preparation for this, the Saunders lot, the Devonshire lot, and the grass in front of Devonshire will exclusively function as staff and visitor parking. 

For students with a parking permit, upcoming construction means parking on the softball field. There will be around 25 fewer parking spots on the softball field than in the front lot, which will create competition for parking.

This limited space will likely create increased traffic congestion not only on Saunders but on Sir Francis Drake leading up to the entrance to the main lot. Once students navigate through the entrance to the main lot, through the outdoor basketball court, and onto the field, the parking setup will operate similarly to “festival parking,” according to McLachlan.

“It will hurt the softball field while we’re parking on it, and the goal is to get us off of there as quickly as possible to then revitalize the field in time for softball in the spring,” McLachlan said.

There will be no drop-off or pick-up in the front lot area, and no cars will be able to turn into the parking lot to reach the softball field unless they have a student parking permit.

“If you’re used to being dropped off or picked up in the front parking lot, think about being dropped off a few blocks away,” McLachlan said. “So I think the best tip is that you’re going to have to leave five minutes earlier, because there’s going to be a little more traffic.”

The Saunders drive-through parking lot is open and available, though it doesn’t have enough spaces for everyone to use. 

Archie Williams junior Dylan Greenberg usually parks on Saunders and tries to find a spot by around 8:20. He normally finds parking on Saunders easily, but has a plan to avoid traffic during the construction process. 

“I don’t know how [the parking situation during construction is] going to work. I think it’s going to be mayhem,”

— Jasper Cohen

“Maybe I could park further and skate,” Dylan said. If more students plan to park further from school it could significantly decrease traffic congestion for everyone.

“I don’t know how [the parking situation during construction is] going to work. I think it’s going to be mayhem,” said Archie Williams junior Jasper Cohen.

Jasper has a permit and parks every day in the main lot. He struggles arriving at school on time when commuting from San Geronimo Valley, but once construction begins, Jasper plans on leaving a couple of minutes earlier than usual every day to avoid the rush.

“Regardless, I think the project is pretty cool; I’m excited,” Jasper said. “Redwood has it, and their whole parking lot is shady. My car will be less hot.”

McLachlan says that while she’s cautiously optimistic about the installation being completed and the main parking lot being accessible by around Thanksgiving, she’s sure that everything will be completed by the second semester. Until then, she reminds students with parking permits to drive safely, and for students getting to school other ways, like walking and biking, to be careful, because there will be more cars on the back roads.

“It will just take everybody a little bit of patience, but class still starts at 8:30, so plan accordingly,” McLachlan said.

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