Summit Promotes Greener Campuses, Clean Energy

Vanessa Duffy

New regulations and standard codes will soon be in effect to make community colleges more “green,” and it is anticipated that energy career programs will become increasingly available.

“Community Colleges are providing the leadership today for the green tomorrow that we need,” said featured speaker Larry Eisenberg, executive director for Facilities Planning and Development for the Los Angeles Community College District.

The Green California Community Colleges Summit was held at the Pasadena Convention Center Oct. 11 to 13. Professionals from colleges, workforce centers, major companies and state division agencies gave presentations and hosted workshops on the new green age. More than 20 sponsors came together to demonstrate how their companies are helping make a green economy.

Business suits and eager faces awaited the guests in the lobby of the convention center. But not many up-and-coming green students were at this event. It was more about business networking. In attendance were Glendale College’s Career and Technical Education (CTE) manager Jean Lecuyer, engineers, architects, non-profit organizations and administrators from local colleges like Pierce and East Los Angeles.

Loosening up the crowd was the non-profit organization Green Street Scene, which had set up a green screen and cameras to do commercials for its “Only You Can Save Energy” campaign that many celebrity’s have already participated in to encourage a healthier environment.

Inspiration came not from an experienced energy architect but also from a teenager. Wednesday’s feature speaker Alec Loorz, a student at El Camino High School, founded the non-profit organization, Kids-vs.-Global-Warming at age 12. He was inspired by Al Gore’s documentary, “An Inconvenient Truth.”

After he was told that he was too young to train as an official presenter of the film he created his own multi-media presentation. He has inspired thousands of youths with his message: “Our generation is the one who will be most affected if nothing is done about global warming, so we need to be the ones leading the movement to bring change. Our voices do matter.”

The premier sponsor of the Green Technology event is Gen7, a manufacturing company that builds and delivers complete classrooms. Right now it makes single-floor classroom plans and they are currently getting approval for two-story buildings.

“The classrooms are 90 percent complete when you purchase them,” said Gen7 representative Jim Wallace. “The other 10 percent is just the base to put the class room on.”

Gen7 is 100 percent recyclable, with most materials containing high amounts of recycled content. It is also a grid neutral design structure. The classrooms are designed with solar panels that provide energy to power the rooms.

Reducing California’s carbon footprint has been one of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s main issues causes being elected to office. Since then, California’s State Architect Division has focused on incorporating green concepts into the design, construction, maintenance and operations of California’s K-12 schools and community colleges according to Theresa Townsend, supervising architect at the Division of the State Architect.
It is a goal of the DSA that by December 2010 all plans coming through DSA will be reviewed for achieving grid neutrality. Neither of these is mandatory at this time; however, planning a grid neutral campus now is encouraged because the regulations are right around the corner. The California Green Building Standards Code could be in effect as early as 2012.

Another main sponsor was SolFocus, high efficiency solar panels. The SolFocus Concentrator Photovoltaic panels convert 25 percent of the incident sunlight into electricity. This is achieved through the use of advanced multi-junction solar cells that aerospace has used for decades.
A first of its kind in North America, SolFocus conducted a project with Victor Valley Community College. SolFocus panels, the micro-generating facility, occupy six acres on the colleges main campus. According to the SolFocus website, the college’s estimated cost savings from installation is projected to be close to $20 million over the 25-year life of the project with a payback period of five years. The 2.5 million kilowatt-hours per year meet about 30 percent of the College’s electricity demand.

“After reviewing several options for a solar provider, SolFocus demonstrated that it could deliver the best value in solar energy for the college,” said Christopher O’Hearn, Victor Valley College president. “This project will undoubtedly be a model for other colleges and universities in meeting energy needs and supporting a green jobs economy,”

A surprising sponsor of the event was Chevron. One doesn’t exactly think “green” when reviewing current gas prices and the damage to the environment from burnt fossil fuels. Ken Casey, a Chevron representative at the event, explained that the company has a program called the Solar Project Experience from Chevron Energy Solutions. It turns out that they are one of the largest developers of solar energy products in the United States.

Chevron has worked with Glendale Water and Power to construct the solar panels on top of Glendale College’s new parking structure. They designed and constructed its 261-kW (dc) solar PV system. Glendale Water & Power uses the energy to meet its Renewable Portfolio Standards goals.

Green jobs aren’t exactly a category found through job searches. However, energy programs will eventually be implemented into most school curricula as will energy workforce training programs.