Newsletter No. 2

Oxy's 1 MW solar array began operation this year on March 4th, 2013, about 6 months ago.

Oxy students,

Oxy's 1 MW solar array began operation this year on March 4th, 2013, about 6 months ago.  After a rough start, see my first email, it has been smooth sailing.

On Monday August 19th we finished producing our first GWh.

1 GWh is a lot of energy.  The average LADWP house uses 14.8 kWh per day so the energy produced by our array as of August 19th was enough to power 185 of our neighbor's houses for a year.  For other equivalencies, especially regarding climate change, you can punch in 1 GWh = 1000000 kWh here,

If you want to log in yourself to the monitoring website you can go to here,
Login ID = oxysolar
Password = 1600solar

The app can be found, for the iPhone, at the Apple's App Store by searching for AlsoEnergy.

If you do login you will discover that we are now up to 1.16 GWh, about 15% of college use over the same period.  I've been tracking these numbers carefully over the summer.  Overall we are producing about 10.1% more energy than I predicted.  Whether this is due to sunny days, clean panels, conservative assumptions, simplistic assumptions or something else is an interesting puzzle.  We have two physics students who are working on independent projects to measure soiling rates over the coming year so hopefully we can start to understand the behavior of our array.  BTW if you have any interest in getting yourself or your students involved with the solar array I would be happy to help.

On the financial side, with a lot of help from facilities personnel, I was able to get the data and information I needed to make a robust calculation of our savings.  Over the last 5 electric bills (up through August 5th) the solar array has saved the college $113,706.51.  At the end of our first full year of operation I should be able to make a first prediction of the payback period on our $3.4M "loan" from the endowment.

The college is focused on water use this year.  Oddly there are several connections between water and electricity.  The AlsoEnergy website claims that we have saved 582,300 gallons of water so far.  I'm dubious about the actual number but the connection is definitely real.  According to this website,

coal fired power plants account for the majority of the United States' freshwater use.  To the extent that we are offsetting the use of coal fired produced electricity we are also saving fresh water.  Additionally California uses a huge amount of electricity to pump water around the state.  According to this website,

"In California, the State Water Project (SWP) pumps water almost 2000 ft over the Tehachapi Mountains! The SWP is the largest single user of energy in California. It consumes an average of 5 billion kWh/yr, accounting for about 2 to 3 percent of all electricity consumed in California."  Saving electricity saves water and vice versa.

Enjoy the sun!