Campus, News

Added solar panels further campus sustainability plan

Students may have noticed several awnings in parking lots 7 and 14 — beyond providing shade, these structures further Cal State Long Beach’s endeavor to provide more sustainable energy.

To reduce CSULB’s ecological footprint, Facilities Management has added solar panels, which will produce about 15 percent of energy consumed by campus annually.

Solar panels aid in the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, helping the campus reach its goal in the 2014 Climate Action Plan: to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2030.

Though the solar panels are up and the parking lots are open, the panels will not be functional until Dec. 1, when Edison hooks them up to the energy grid, which is the network that connects the electrical distributors to the users.

“We intentionally scheduled and finished it so that it would not impact parking,” Michael Gardner, capital project manager and physical planning and facilities management said. “People are very sensitive about parking and so are we.”

The roughly $18 million project is the biggest solar installation in all 23 CSU campuses. Renewable energy comes at a high price, but the expense is not being paid for by the school.

With an agreement between SunPower and CSULB, the private developer will pay for all the costs of the solar panels upfront, on the condition that the school will pay SunPower for their energy produced. The electricity will be bought at a fixed rate over the course of a 20-year lease.

Additionally, the campus will not be allowed to export any power as part of the agreement, and will have to store excess energy in storage batteries which can be used when the sun isn’t out.

The renewable energy produced throughout one year will make up for roughly 12.6 million miles of passenger vehicle emissions as shown by the EPA’s greenhouse gas equivalencies calculator.

Though solar panels on campus may seem like a novelty, they aren’t. The entire roof of Brotman Hall is covered with them.

Increasing the number of panels makes CSULB more eco-friendly, but renewable energy is just one way to alleviate environmental problems.

“More than half of our greenhouse gas emissions come from commuters coming to campus,” sustainability coordinator Holli Fajack said. “So that’s obviously a huge challenge, that we’re primarily a commuter campus. And we’re in California and people like their cars.”

Based upon the agreement with SunPower, CSULB has already installed the maximum amount of solar panels allowed.

More solar panel installations are possible in the future, but campus facilities will have to see what the incentives are before making any other agreements.

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