“To pretend that the world is a garden is … a turning away from the woes that keep it from being one." —Rebecca Solnit.
In my New Year’s column on ways to make Eagle Rock greener in 2011, I called for three megawatts of solar power to be installed in Eagle Rock: a megawatt at , another among area businesses and institutions, plus a megawatt spread among homeowners.
Let’s revise that to two megawatts over the next year and extend the geography to include our neighboring communities of Highland Park, Mt. Washington and Glassell Park.
Here’s how we can do it:
As part of an effort to stimulate interest in alternative energy production and to green the campus, Occidental College hopes to install a one-megawatt solar array on two undeveloped acres of the west-facing slope of Fiji Hill, and on cantilevered solar shade structures on an adjacent parking lot. The array would reduce Occidental’s greenhouse gas emissions by the equivalent of 1,250 metric tons of carbon dioxide every year—akin to removing 250 automobiles from the road.
If Occidental installs an array, we'll be halfway to the 2 mW goal.
To help spread the benefits of solar power to the community at large, Occidental has arranged for the manufacturer of its solar panels, SunPower, to offer a discount on rooftop solar installations to homeowners and small business owners in the 90041, 90042, and 90065 zip codes.
If the college moves forward with its array, Occidental will hold a series of solar power workshops this summer for community members. Taking advantage of this discount could save up to $2,000 on a typical residential installation above and beyond state solar rebates and federal tax credits.
Get this: If 150 residents each install a 4 kW system and 20-40 local businesses, schools, and organizations install medium-sized 10-20 kW systems, that’s another megawatt.
Together, we can bring two megawatts of clean power to Northeast Los Angeles.
The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power has temporarily stopped accepting new applications for rebates to citizens who go solar but their program should, I hope, resume in July.
Incidentally, Occidental does not gain any financial benefits from neighbors buying SunPower panels. There are cheaper, less-efficient solar panels on the market and I encourage you to explore different options. But I’m excited that the college is giving the community a chance to install the most efficient commercially available panels for less.
Occidental’s array also is intended to function as an educational tool. Occidental faculty members have identified a dozen current courses that could incorporate the array into their syllabi. We also hope that local schools take advantage of the array as a local “lab” for their science classes and as visible inspiration to young people about the promise of the green economy.
I recently wrote that the about the neighborhood aesthetics of solar arrays. Interestingly, the Occidental array is intended to be both a green power generator as well as something of a land art masterpiece.
Working with a local design firm, Lettuce, Occidental developed a configuration for the hillside array that combines technology, art and continued public access to the top of Fiji Hill on the college campus. With panels mounted two to three feet above the ground, the array will hug the topography of the slope in a sweeping design based on a mathematical expression known as a hysteresis curve. By using the most efficient panels available, the array will be as small as possible. The solar shade structures in the parking lot will have cantilevered “roofs” that will range in height from 8½ to 15 feet.
Photos taken from neighborhoods north, west and south of the proposed array site show that only a limited number of residents on the west and south will be able to see the hillside portion of the array at a distance of three-quarters of a mile to a mile. College representatives are speaking to neighborhood councils and other stakeholders about the proposed array and solar discount.
Faculty, staff and students at Occidental have worked for almost two years to plan the array. I am excited to see the proposal move forward. It inspired me to want to install solar panels at my own house. I’m especially thrilled that an array at Occidental could help local residents and businesses go solar.
After all, studies show that solar is contagious, so let’s start capturing the sun!