Narrator: UC San Diego prides itself in being a leader in sustainability and the twelve hundred acre campus now has a 1-megawatt array of shiny, solar panels to show for it ... and plans for another megawatt in the making.
David Weil, Director, UCSD Building Commissioning & Sustainabiliy: One of the reasons that we're trying to do it is our research, as many know, kind of led the way - we're leaders in identifying global warming, the effects of greenhouse gas emissions, so we in particular as a campus felt that it was the right time to green our operations if you will. Students have been instrumental in helping us get this far - they've been a big part of it - moving us in this direction and then from the project level, we have several interns that work with us in facilities management and they've helped us throughout every aspect of the project.
Narrator: Mark Galvan, a student intern majoring in structural engineering, worked closely with facilities management on the project to ensure that the solar panels were made visible to students.
Mark Galvan, UCSD student/intern: So students can really see what we're doing, see that we're making an effort and working toward that for the future.
I think a lot of students, and me included, feel that sustainability is part of our future and that really, we need to take control of that and really push for that.
Narrator: Erika Kociolek, a student intern with the university's Green Campus and Environment Sustainability Initiative, makes student awareness her business.
Kociolek: We're standing on top of the Price Center, which is the hub of student activity on campus and it's really great that these panels are placed here because students can look up and wonder - oh, what are those solar panels doing there? And it's my job to tell them what they're doing here, why they're important, why this school is going green.
Narrator: Solar panels are springing up on campus in other forms, too ...
This is a solar grove, one of two sites located on campus on the top of a parking structure. It's form and function - each design of the solar tree is based on a natural tree. There's a trunk, branches and canopy to provide much sought after shade.
Weil: We are really trying to promote sustainability and this is just one way of doing it - having the opportunity for people to see it, here in action if you will. As the come here and they park on the structure, as they walk by you can see it from down below, so it's really a great advertisement, if you will, for renewable energy.
Narrator: Each of these solar trees will generate more than seventeen thousand hours of clean energy per year and each ‘trunk' offers the option to install an outlet to charge electric cars. The solar groves and the solar arrays on top of the Price Center and other buildings on campus were designed, installed and maintained by two local companies that are partnering with the campus in this landmark effort. The best part? UC San Diego did not have to pay for the installation.
Steven Relyea, Vice-Chancellor/UCSD Business Affairs: One of the things that's available to California, also the federal government, are tax credits and incentives. Those types of vehicles are not available to a public university because we don't pay taxes. So, what we did is essentially lease our rooftops for a dollar a year to a third party company that does pay taxes and allow them to do the development, the planning, the financing, the ownership and actually sell us back the electricity from the solar panels. So, they get to take advantage of those things that we can't take advantage of. Rebates and tax credits...we get to have energy at market or below market prices coming from a renewable source and it fits in perfectly with the academic strategy of a place, which is to be a living laboratory, allow students to work on this stuff, look at the efficiency of these things, evaluate how they work...so, it's a win-win for everybody.
Narrator: Another groundbreaking, green energy project on campus is a student-designed network of five weather-monitoring stations that will help the university identify the sunniest rooftops to expand their solar arrays. The weather stations will also use ocean breezes to cool buildings and use water more efficiently in irrigation and other uses. The university is also planning to store power produced at night from a planned 2.8 megawatt "green" fuel cell and use that energy during peak-demand hours the following day when electricity rates are highest.
Relyea: The way we're going to fuel it is by capturing waste methane from a wastewater treatment plant about a dozen miles from here, bring it up to the campus and create this renewable energy that's the equivalent of roughly 2500 homes worth of energy or another way of looking at it is 2.5 times the amount of energy that solar panels will produce. Again, just one more thing among all these strategies - think of a quiver with lots of arrows that are pointed towards this target of global warming and each arrow has a different set of tools.
Narrator: In all, UC San Diego's ‘Smart Energy Grid' provides a model for California and the nation, as well as a source of inspiration for students.
Kociolek: I think that the importance of having solar panels and fuel cell and new green technologies on a college campus is particularly important because it's a living laboratory for students. The turnover rate is, every year a class graduates and every year a new class comes in and so we have the opportunity to educate, year after year, students about green technologies and the university is an innovative place - it's a place where you do cutting edge research and having these technologies here not only demonstrates the university's commitment to teach its students about green technologies, but empower them to have the skills and knowledge to go out into the workforce and be part of the green revolution.
Narrator: In San Diego, I'm Larissa Branin.