No gridlock here

Shafinaaz Kamrul

According to district officials, The Los Angeles Community College District (LACCD) plans to become the first community college district in the nation to generate all its own electricity.

A Oct.17 press release said LACCD, the nation’s largest community college district, announced a precedent-setting plan to produce enough of its own electricity to take its nine campuses “off the power grid.”

Nearly 200,000 students are being educated in the LACCD, according to the district’s official Web site.

This announcement was made at the Solar Power 2006 conference, which took place San Jose, California.

“That would be nice, wouldn’t it?” asked Paul Neiman, director of the Pierce College plant facilities office.

“I think that there is intent to do that but we don’t have the capacity to do it right now as far as I know.”

“I heard that the district wants to do it that way but right now we have just enough to do a part of it but not enough to shut off the power grid,” said Neiman.

“I don’t know too much about it though. I have not received a call about it as yet.”

If the grid was shut down then the campus would, with the kind of energy it produces, be able to produce enough to run parts of the Pierce College campus and the main buildings, but not the entire campus.

“Here in sunny Southern California, we are meeting our responsibility to generate as much solar energy as possible, and to continuing to maintain our leadership in pursuing sustain ability in higher education,” said Larry Eisenberg, Executive Director of Facilities Planning and Development for the LACCD in the press release.

“We believe that what today may seem futuristic can soon be commonplace.”

The nine LACCD colleges, including Pierce, use less than one megawatt per campus and thus it is stated by the district that self-generating that amount through the use of photovoltaic panels will provide enough electricity to meet all daytime requirements.

“This process can be very expensive,” said Neiman. “Where do we have enough money to do that?”

It was said in the district’s press release that the installation of the solar panels at the colleges would be completed in 2008 and the expected cost would be between $7 and $9 million.

The press release said “a request for proposals will be issued within the next four weeks for the contracts to install solar panels at the nine campuses.”

According to the California Energy Commission, one megawatt is enough energy to power 1,000 average California homes.

One problem that a campus like Pierce would have is that the buildings do not permit themselves to have equipment put on the roof and thus this system cannot really be installed in the way that the district is planning.

“I think it’s a better idea to continue to build more covered parking lots because when your car’s out in the sun for too long it gives out fumes and causes air pollution,” said Neiman. “Students love the idea and it would make the cars more fuel-efficient.”

If this plan is successful, colleges would not have to pay an electricity bill and that would mean that we would be saving a lot of money that can be used in other academic purposes.

“Right now I have a budget of $600,000 for the electricity bill for the next college year,” said Neiman. “If we are totally self-sufficient then we can save that half-a-million dollars.”

“Besides being energy self-sufficient, this commitment to adopting renewable energy sources will allow us to reallocate money we are currently spending on power to other pressing needs such as the maintenance and operation of the new buildings we are constructing under the bond program,” said Eisenberg.

Although the district seems sure of what it is doing, campus officials have not been informed extensively about it as yet.

“It has not yet come to us and thus, it is definitely not part of our plans,” said Neiman. “I guess we will cross the bridge when we get there but it is a great idea.”