California State University, Long Beach
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Solar Panel Power Goes Through the Roof

The fight to save energy has gone to the roof at CSULB with 800 solar panels now atop Brotman Hall and more planned to be located at Facilities Management by year’s end.

Photovoltaic (PV) solar power panels, measuring approximately 4’ x 8’ and weighing 107 pounds each, have been installed on the roof of Brotman Hall as part of an incentive program sponsored by the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC), explained Tim Ball, associate director of Facilities Management – Engineering/Electrical Services and Utilities.

The CPUC through its public service surcharges included with utility bills, funds various incentive programs like Flex Your Power or rebates for energy-efficient appliances, etc. The CPUC earmarks certain funding levels to support various energy incentive programs such as the Self-Generation Incentive Program (SGIP). In September 2000, Assembly Bill 970 called for creating energy supply and demand programs. As a result, in March 2001, the CPUC issued a decision creating the SGIP to offer financial incentives to its customers who install certain types of distributed generation facilities to meet all or a portion of their energy needs.

Generation must be certified to operate in parallel with the electric system grid (not back-up generation) and meet other criteria established by the CPUC. The California Energy Commission offers a similar program that is available to customers who install renewable generation such as fuel cells and wind turbines, less than 30 kilowatts in size.

“What we’re doing here is consistent with the CSU Executive Order 987 for energy efficiency and sustainability as well as the governor’s orders to state agencies to pursue renewable sources of energy,” said Ball, who joined the university in 1996. “In an effort to be compliant with the governor’s and the CSU’s executive orders, as well as to fulfill the ambitions of our Associated Students and other organizations within the CSU, we are attempting to do our part to fulfill our energy objectives.”

“There will be two campus installations of photovoltaic cells,” said Ball. “One will be in the canopies of covered parking in Facilities Management, which will provide 100 kilowatts of power during peak generation periods. The other will be a 225-kilowatt array on the roof of Brotman Hall which will take care of 80-90 percent of their peak demand periods.

“These two installations represent the university’s combined efforts to fulfill the sustainable and renewable energy goals of the CSU,” added Ball. “It also represents the university’s responsibility to help satisfy the state’s electrical needs. There are many environmental benefits associated with this as well.”

Ball believes CSULB has one of the most capable campuses in the CSU system in terms of being able to explore power-saving opportunities and to deliver on those opportunities. Ball was presented with the Energy Project of the Year Award in 2005 by the Southern California Chapter of the Association of Energy Engineers for his collaborative work on the design and development of several energy efficiency best practices within the university’s Molecular and Life Sciences Center. He points to CSULB’s co-generation plant which creates 200 kilowatts to power and heat the university’s pools. He also cites the campus heating and cooling plant which makes ice at night through the use of thermal energy storage, which in turns is used to cool campus buildings during the day. “This plant alone offsets two megawatts of demand,” Ball said. “That translates to the equivalent of powering 200,000 homes.”

Physical Planning and Facilities Management has been involved with the energy-saving installations from the beginning.

“In planning for the covered parking area, we had to keep in mind all the underground power utilities and the structural issues involved with providing the proper structural integrity for the covered canopies that will be placed there. It is up to us to look at the structural, archeological and seismic disciplines associated with this job," said Ball. “Step by step we have been intimately involved with our contractor, Noresco Holdings Inc. Facilities personnel assisted in preparing the site by providing coordination for electrical connections and pursuing the campus acceptance procedure. We will insure all the existing structures are maintained and protected and that our personnel will receive all the training necessary to maintain the performance of the system once it is in place.”

Ball thanked the CSULB administration and campus community for its energy-saving support. “If it weren’t for the vision and leadership of the university’s top administrators, we never would have been able to execute this,” he said. “I want to thank all the team players who made this possible.

The new solar cells offer the university a greater chance at self-sustainability as far as campus power demands are concerned, Ball explained. “With the generation from our corporate yard and the roof of Brotman Hall, we’ll be able to reduce the impact of Facilities Management and Administration on the campus from a power standpoint,” he said. “Plus, our electrical staff will benefit from knowing how to develop, maintain and operate self-generation systems.”