ARROYO GRANDE, Calif. -

A solar energy project on the Arroyo Grande High School main parking lot is underway, but it's causing a parking nightmare for students and staff.

Thirty minutes before school started this morning, the main parking lot was already full.

"It's just been getting really packed really early, so you got to get here at least 30 minutes earlier if you want to get a parking spot," said student Toby Tonascia, who snagged a spot early.

Construction for a solar energy project is the culprit. It began earlier this week, wiping out about 160 of the 600 parking spots at the high school.

Parking violations are all over the main parking lot. The school says it's going to be turning a blind eye to most of them while the construction continues on.

"We have Arroyo Grande Police Department here on campus and they monitor pretty well what's going on," said principal Conan Bowers. "Administration has been out here in the morning making sure the creative parking jobs are done right."

The high school is allowing students to use parking lots behind the campus as well. According to the school, no student has been towed or received a parking ticket this week. But students have been complaining, and at least one parent has requested a refund for the parking permit they paid for.

The solar project is a small part of the Energy Solutions Program within the Lucia Mar Unified School District. It's making the district more energy efficient and energy independent. The first phase of the project at Arroyo Grande High school should be wrapped up before graduation on June 12th. Until then, students and staff will be dealing with this parking mess.

"It's really crazy," said Bowers. "They know to be here. We have kids getting here at 7 o'clock studying in their cars. It's been a learning experience and adjustment for them. It's been a nightmare."

The 2nd and final phase of the solar project will begin in the summer and will be wrapped up before the next school year.