Samantha Koos | Green Technology Magazine
November 11 - Expanding its role as a leader in the green schools movement, the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) is not only saving energy, it is creating energy. LAUSD just weeks ago began construction to install one megawatt of renewable solar power at the Pico Rivera General Stores and Food Warehouse, with expected completion before the end of this year. This project is the first in the District’s program to install as much as 50 MW of renewable energy technology, including solar power, at schools and other facilities.
“We are excited about launching our solar energy program,” LAUSD Chief Facilities Executive Guy Mehula said. “This is the first of many renewable energy projects coming in the next year, as LAUSD has many buildings that have the capability of drawing energy from the perennial Southern California sun.”
The solar project at the Pico Rivera warehouse is significant for many reasons, one being the sheer size of this first-of-its-kind project for the District. The project will incorporate 6,000 solar panels to generate 1 MW of power which will reduce CO2 emissions by an estimated 1,141 tons, equal to eliminating the consumption of 2,408 barrels of oil or eliminating the annual emissions of 190 cars.
The project will deliver the District immediate savings and provide a long-term hedge against rising peak power prices with no upfront system cost. Through a power purchase agreement, the District will purchase the electricity the solar installation generates from a third party financier. As a further benefit, LAUSD will retain 100 percent ownership of the Renewable Energy Credits (RECs) associated with the installation. RECs are certificates that represent the “greenness” of renewable energy, and are a legally recognized measure of an entity’s commitment to green power.
As this first solar project gets off the ground, LAUSD is already evaluating the possibility of moving its facilities toward “grid neutral,” which the California Department of the State Architect (DSA) defines as a facility that generates as much electricity on site as it uses annually. In the meantime, LAUSD is preparing for the installation of another 660 kilowatts in three schools set to start in early December, and more projects are in the queue, with a projected 5.7 Megawatts under contract by the end of 2008.
The District played a key role in developing green school guidelines after 2001 through the Collaborative for High Performance Schools (CHPS) school building criteria (www.chps.net). These criteria, which have been refined since they were first introduced in 2003, include recycled and low-emitting materials, energy and water efficiencies and daylighting. LAUSD’s CHPS schools also now incorporate solar technology in their designs.
LAUSD views its new sustainable, high performing schools as valuable teaching tools, and is working to ensure that vegetated “green” roofs, which reduce energy costs by insulating buildings, are incorporated into school designs to be safely accessible or in easy view for instructional purposes. Other plans in the works include educational kiosks that are connected to the photovoltaic cells in solar panels to show in real time the energy being produced, as well as utilizing students’ own creativity to help develop ways to communicate a building’s green features effectively.
Given its size, from the number of buildings it operates to the number of students it educates, LAUSD is in a unique position to push the winds of change toward sustainable living. Beyond buildings and renewable energy, opportunities to promote sustainability at LAUSD range from how food is dispensed at school cafeterias to how students are exposed to environmental curriculum in the classroom. With execution of the first solar power agreement, other possibilities for more environmentally responsible operations at LAUSD are emerging. From solar heated pools to fuel converted from food waste - if it is good for the students and the budget of LAUSD and good for the environment - it is likely under consideration.
To coordinate the wide range of sustainability initiatives in the District, LAUSD has set up a Sustainability Steering Committee, coordinated by LAUSD’s Director of Sustainability Initiatives Randy Britt.
“We are very excited to be a part of a dynamic program that is in a position to make a positive difference in the lives of our students, our faculty, and our community,” Britt said. “We want to lead by a positive example to ensure a sustainable future for our students for generations to come. Our vision is clearly to become the most environmentally friendly large school district in the United States, in all that we do.”
The passage of Measure Q will enable LAUSD to continue greening its campuses for today’s students and for future generations. The $7 billion school repair bond upgrades schools to accommodate modern technology and addresses educational needs, creates capacity to attract, retain and graduate more students through a comprehensive portfolio of small high-quality Pre-K through adult schools, and promotes a healthier environment through green technology.
Efforts to make LAUSD green began nearly a decade ago when LAUSD began its $20.3 Billion New School Construction and Modernization Program. The Program has delivered 76 new schools and more than 17,500 school modernization projects to date.
In recognition of its leadership, LAUSD received Global Green’s California Environmental Leadership Award and is an inductee of Green California Schools Hall of Fame.
For more information on LAUSD’s $20.3 Billion New School Construction and Modernization Program, please visit www.laschools.org.
High Performance Schools:
The New Jewels of Los Angeles
The second largest school district in the United States, the Los Angeles Unified School District has been called a behemoth, top heavy and inefficient, controversial and downright impossible to manage. None of this has prevented the district from launching a green schools initiative of unprecedented scale.
A look at two of the high performance schools included in LAUSD's $20 billion school construction and renovation program.