Solar Panels Reflect Green Consciousness

Garrick Hogg

Glendale Community College’s new parking structure was crowned with 872 solar panels this past summer.

Construction for the photovoltaic array began in February, executed by Chevron Energy Solutions and funded by the Glendale Water and Power for a total of $2.9. According to a G.W.P. press release, “The project is the largest solar power infrastructure in Glendale to date.”

“We have established a policy of energy sustainability,” says Larry Serot, vice president of business services at the college.

This policy is in its formative stages. Administrators are currently working in tandem with the Glendale Unified School District to find methods of assessing the college’s energy consumption.

“They [Glendale Unified School District] have found ways to be more productive in analyzing their facilities, we haven’t quite gotten there yet, we are talking about it, and we have put in place the pieces to do it, but we haven’t gone into implementation,” said Dr. Audrey Levy, president of the college.

“This has come about in terms of trying to be economical and to use our resources more wisely, at the requests of the faculty and the budget committee,” said Levy.

Having funded the project, GWP will own and maintain the solar panel array for its expected lifetime of 50 years, after that period, the infrastructure will be turned over to the college.

The GWP is currently selling the environmentally friendly energy to the college at the market rate of conventional energy. This means the college gains no immediate economic advantage, however an agreement between the campus and GWP waves a “Green Power Premium,” an increased rate that GWP charges its green energy customers in order to fund current and future renewable energy projects. The array is expected to pay for itself in 25 years.

The solar energy system is plugged directly into the campus’s energy grid so that whole campus can benefit. The solar panel array provides an average of 400 mega-watt hours per year, which accounts for 10 percent of the campus’ energy consumption. Additionally, the array provides shade for the fourth and sixth levels of the student parking structure.

In the works is a five-to-six-year plan to renovate the school gymnasium that will include an installation of solar panels. The college’s plan includes ownership of the new solar panels, providing energy free from an outside utilities company. The project is still seeking a source for funding.

The solar panels atop the student parking structure are only one of several collaborations between GCC and the GWP. The Cimmarusti Science Center across campus is also outfitted with a photovoltaic system, which provides one-third of the building’s energy demands. The GWP also spent $500,000 to provide GCC with energy efficient air conditioners called “Chillers.”

“I think this is the way our whole society is going, so we have to make these kinds of
decisions,” said Levy.

Photovoltaic systems are not a new concept. Light was first converted to electric energy by French physicist Edmond Becquerel in 1839. Photovoltaic systems now appear in devices such as hand-held calculators and NASA’s Mars rovers.

To learn more about PV systems, visit the U.S. Department of Energy’s website at