Newsletter No. 7


Today, Occidental's 1 MW solar array is 4 years old. In the last year the array produced 1.82 GWh of electrical energy.

Good Morning Occidental!

Today (Saturday, March 4, 2017), Occidental's 1 MW solar array is 4 years old.

 

In the last year the array produced 1.82 GWh of electrical energy.  For comparison here are the numbers from previous years,

1st year = 1.82 GWh
2nd year = 1.88 GWh
3rd year = 1.79 GWh
4th year = 1.82 GWh
 
Since "first-light" on March 4th, 2013 the array has produced 7.31 GWh of electrical energy, 12.2% of the college's 59.86 GWh use over the same time period.  For equivalencies, especially regarding climate change, you can punch in 7.31 GWh = 7310000 kWh here.
 
If you want to monitor the array yourself you can log into our solar website,

Login ID = oxysolar
Password = 1600solar

Apps for your phone can be found by searching for the company which runs the website, AlsoEnergy.

On the financial side of things, our electrical bills have been lower these last three years due to the energy generated by the solar array.  Over the last year the solar array saved the college $246k.  For comparison here are the numbers from previous years,
 
1st year = $250k
2nd year = $293k
3rd year = $233k
4th year = $246k
 
for a grand total of $1.02M on a purchase price of $3.423M.  We are 25% of the way to paying off the array [1].  For some more financial analysis you can check out this footnote [2].

For those of you concerned about climate change, recent events have been worrisome.  After a 100-year rise in average global temperatures both NASA and NOAA concluded that last year was the hottest on record, the third record year in a row [3]   In the face of these facts the incoming Trump administration appears keen to undo many of the Obama administration’s efforts to fight climate change.  It seems clear that efforts to move to cleaner energy will largely be carried out at the state and local level in the years to come.  California has done a lot; including large hydro we get 27.3% of our energy from renewables [4]   At Oxy we are at 12.2% and there is more we can do right here on campus.

Here are a few energy initiatives I am aware of,
 
1) LED Lights - Facilities is pushing a plan to replace 60 of our streetlights and 17 walkway lights with LED lights.  The projected annual energy savings are 0.0739 GWh or 0.49% of college’s 15.0 GWh annual average usage.  The payback is good enough to qualify for funding from Occidental’s $3.5M green fund [5].  That proposal will come to the Occidental Sustainable Investment Fund Committee soon.
 
2) Batteries - Chuck Oravec (Physics Lab Supervisor and LADWP’s Solar Cup Team Leader) and I heard a presentation from Stem, Inc., based in Millbrae CA, to install battery storage on campus.  Batteries will not reduce our usage but they will be increasingly important in the years ahead as renewables become more prevalent.  Stem had a pretty good pitch.  There is no up-front cost to install the batteries but they will charge us a monthly fee.  However, their system is designed to save money by shifting usage from high energy cost periods to low energy cost periods.  They monetarily guarantee the savings they generate will exceed their monthly charge.  Next week we will meet with them to hear a more in-depth presentation.  If we move ahead with Stem, or some other battery company, I will be keen to have a look at the data to verify savings and give our students a chance to study this new and rapidly evolving technology.
 
3) More solar - As some of you may know I’ve been pushing for more solar on campus.  The plan is to put an additional MW on the campus on parking lots.  Advantages to this plan are as follows.
 
a) Provide shade for parked cars.
b) One prime parking lot is the admissions parking lot which would send a nice signal to prospective students and families.  That will have to be done nicely.
c) We can still receive rebates from the LADWP for another MW but not more.
d) With the rebates and the continually falling price of solar the payback period would allow us to utilize the Green Fund.
e) The new solar will offset increased usage due to a planned expansion of AC in 5 dorms on campus.
f) Increasing our generation capacity will bring us up to about 25% offset, close to California on the whole.
g) The project will necessitate the replacement of our aging electrical substation.
 
That last one has been a sticking point for this project.  If you know of anyone who wants to improve critical infrastructure and open to the door to a lot more renewable generation on campus please send them my way.
 
Green energy, done right, is a win for the environment and a win for the bottom line.  As evidence I leave you with this lovely sight from last week.