Sun takes heat off college

A dedication ceremony this past Friday afternoon at Santa Monica College commemorated the completion of its solar panels' installation, the largest solar project in Santa Monica.

As SMC President Chui L. Tsang spoke, he gestured to the clear view atop the parking structure on Pico Blvd. "I remember coming to L.A. and unable to see that view. I want our children to have this same view."

Tsang thanked SMC's environmentally friendly attitude for the change.

In addition to the $3.6 million solar panels project, Chevron Energy Solutions, who worked with SMC on the project, helped to introduce a lighting retrofit, new heating hot water boilers, a fire alarm system, and emergency circuit upgrades.

Whereas often times the college will utilize multiple vendors for a project this size, Chevron offered the designing, engineering, and construction as one package.

Although the installation of the solar panels only took six weeks, the preparation lasted nearly two years. Director of Facilities and Planning Greg Brown said, "It was very difficult to add [solar panels] to an existing parking structure."

He said each parking spot needed to be x-rayed to ensure that the holes they made didn't hit any of the existing structure.

The solar panels alone should save the college over $8,000 each month. Over the next twenty years, the solar panels along with the other installations are expected to save the college about $14 million.

"This is a smart way of doing things," says Tsang. "It saves us money. It doesn't pollute. This is a win win win for all."

"Any money we save means we can put that money into our mission: which is to educate students. We can have more classes, have more faculty members and provide education," said Tsang.

Another way of saving energy is using wind. According to Brown, everywhere SMC adds a new building it will have either solar or wind, so there will be an alternate form of energy available.

The new Student Services building and the AET Media Complex's roof will be covered with solar panels from the start. They will also meet the minimum requirements for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification.

"A lot of horrible things have been done to our planet," says Tsang. "And we're committed to improving the environment and we're committed to leave the world a better place, the way we inherited it.

According to Chevron Senior Vice President Dave Stone, the company does not yet have plans with SMC on future projects. Stone did point out that president Tsang said this would not be the last time working with Chevron though.

"I'm hoping that we will come up and put in some more solar and do more energy efficiency for the college," said Stone.

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