New Solar Panels Still Inactive

After months of delays due to legal obstacles, Pomona College will finally be putting to use its new set of solar panels, which were installed atop Sontag Hall, Pomona Hall, and the Pomona athletic field last year.

The college purchased the panels in December 2010, but operations were delayed while the Claremont University Consortium (CUC) battled with utility company Southern California Edison (SCE) over project logistics. SCE provides power across the consortium.

“SoCal Edison requested a great amount of information,” said Bob Robinson, Vice President and Director of the Office of Facilities and Campus Services. “This week, we will be dealing with their final round of questions and signing an interconnection agreement, and then these panels should be up and running.”

Robinson and Director of the Sustainability Integration Office (SIO) Bowen Close denied rumors that conflict between Pomona College and CUC delayed operation and maintenance of the panels.

“The Consortium has been on our side every step of the way,” Robinson said.

When the new panels are turned on, the campus will generate 225 kilowatts of solar power, which is enough to power 17,300 compact fluorescent lamp (CFL) bulbs. Robinson said that although the five colleges together use about 14 megawatts of power per year, every bit helps.

Pomona is one of only eight colleges across the nation to earn an ‘A’ Grade on the Sustainable Endowments Institute’s 2011 College Sustainability Report Card (CSRC), and the installation of the new panels is a step toward the school’s goal of becoming a more sustainable campus. Other buildings on campus already have solar power facilities, including the Seaver biology building, which houses a partially solar-powered 2.5-kilowatt laboratory.

Other solar panels, which have been purchased by Pomona but have not been installed, include those that may end up atop the Pomona parking garage on Columbia Ave or atop any one of the South Campus residence halls. These have the potential to generate as much as 20 percent of Pomona’s total power usage, decreasing costs for the school as well as power usage in the residence halls. According to the Pomona College Sustainability Report from the 2009-2010 academic year, over half of the total power usage on campus came from residence halls.

“Solar panels are an important piece, true,” the CSRC reads. “However, what we need from the entire school is a commitment to promoting awareness of environmental issues. It’s the impact on natural resources [that really matters here].”

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