‘Green’ Construction Subject of Lecture

Vaughn Lawrence

Slight breezes and sunny days are commonplace in Southern California.

Both the wind and sun produce energy that can be harvested and converted into electricity. This energy is called green energy.

GCC held a green lecture on Wednesday, March 16 detailing different methods of how individuals and schools can go green.

Larry Eisenberg, the executive director for facailities planning and development for the Los Angeles Community College District (LACCD), gave the lecture at GCC.

Going green is not a process that involves planting greenery or painting the school accordingly. It is the movement that involves harnessing forms of energy from the sun and wind as opposed to burning fossil fuels or coal.

“If we do it green we are going to save the world,” said Eisenberg.

The main point of the lecture was that schools such as GCC and those in the LACCD should move toward going “off the grid” by using renewable energy sources.

Going off the grid refers to the power grid, and there are options that Eisenberg presented that allow schools to stop receiving energy from external sources.

The necessary components to achieving that goal are making use of energy sources and energy storage.

The majority of energy sources currently used to generate power are called dirty energy sources. The burning of fossil fuels and coal releases pollutants into the environment, making them dirty.

Nuclear energy is another form of energy that produces toxic waste so it is also considered dirty energy. It is a great way to produce mass amounts of power, but Eisenberg said that nuclear power has two main drawbacks. The first is “what do you do with the waste?” and “the other basic issue is safety,” said Eisenberg.

Another pitfall of nuclear energy is that “all known uranium sources in the world will last 60 more years at the present rate of consumption,” said Eisenberg. That is not a lot of time, but perhaps enough to find an alternative.

Eisenberg said that “here in Los Angeles, 50 percent of our power comes from coal.”

The amount of renewable energy sources only account for 8 percent of power nationwide.

Eisenberg discussed options that could easily be available to GCC. The main renewable energy sources that could most easily come to GCC are solar panels (also called photovoltaic panels), and wind turbines.

There is also a new type of turbine that Eisenberg referred to as the Wind Jet. He said the Wind Jet trumps all other renewable energy sources.

Unlike normal wind turbines that start turning at 17 mph, and have to be stopped at 50 mph to avoid catastrophic failure, the Wind Jet becomes more stable as its speed increases.

Eisenberg explained that photovoltaic panels are the same as solar panels, and they convert energy from the sun into useable electricity.

Photovoltaic panels could easily be installed on the roofs of GCC’s buildings or be used to create shade in our school parking lot.

Along with the photovoltaic panels, Eisenberg showed examples of how small wind turbines can be used at GCC.

GCC, both the main campus and Garfield, use about three megawatts of power per year. A megawatt is 1 million watts. A light bulb only requires 60 watts of energy to be turned on; this puts the amount of three megawatts in better perspective.

The Wind Jet can produce nine megawatts of power, or enough power to sustain three GCCs. If GCC had a Wind Jet not only would it be off the grid, but it could sell all of the remaining power the jet will have produced.

Seeing as there are various methods of producing green energy, the step after production would naturally be storage.

Storing energy at a school allows the school to use power without it having to travel at all.

Power is not directly created at GCC, and power is not directly created in our homes. If it was, there would be no need for power lines.

Power that runs through those lines is inevitably lost throughout its travels.

“About 55 percent of the power that we generate is lost,” said Eisenberg.

Eisenberg said that the energy storage process was the easiest aspect of going green, and getting off the grid. He showed pictures of a nitrogen storage cell in his presentation explaining how it could be used for energy storage.

“This is not rocket science, this is not Martian technology,” said Eisenberg.

He also spoke about simple ways that energy could be conserved.

“The number one best thing to do to save energy is adding insulation,” said Eisenberg.

Other ways of conserving energy include having a system to monitor how energy is used, and installing occupancy sensors in rooms.

Occupancy sensors can determine whether or not there are people in a specific room. If there are people in the room, the lights come on. If no one is around, the lights go off. Eisenberg said that the technology has been improving to be able to better sense whether there are actually people around the sensor.

Eisenberg jokingly said, “if you are dead, yes you can hide in the room.”

This discussion of going green leads to the question, why aren’t schools taking these steps towards energy independence?
“The most prevalent reason is fear. [and] when you have something new and different it makes people crazy,” said Eisenberg.

If GCC wants to move toward going green Eisenberg presented options that will allow that to become reality.

To find the information that Eisenberg gave in his lecture, and information about how LACCD is going green, visit laccdbuildsgreen.org.