Cañada sets example for renewable energy

In the current ecological state that California and a significant amount of the country is in, the nation is worried about conserving water, and global warming has pushed everyone to reconsider how they use energy and where it comes from. Fossil fuels are known to be the cause of global warming, contributing to California’s drought.

Many people are looking towards using alternative types of energy that do not involve the use of oil or coal. Since California is almost completely dry, it rules out hydro-power, forcing California to now depend on the other popular energy alternative: solar power.

Cañada was the first school in the district to install solar panels. The website for the project says Cañada has a three acre site where solar panels are installed to produce around one megawatt of energy for the school.

Joe Fullerton, the Energy and Sustainability Manager for the district, confirms this.

“The 4100 panels at Cañada generate about 1.25 megawatts of electricity,” he said.

According to the Solar Energy Industries Association, this much energy can power 164 average US homes, depending on sunlight of course.

Skyline College Solar Installation & Integration professor Bruce Greenstein, says the benefits of switching to solar power include reducing Greenhouse gas emissions, and becoming energy independent.

“Students would see the benefits of going solar immediately as long as it is sunny,” he said.

Fullerton explained one difficulty with the possibility of installing solar panels at Skyline College.

“Skyline is an especially challenging environment for solar,” he said. “Insulation [sun exposure] is not fantastic and the electrical infrastructure required for an installation would be extensive. Other issues of biodiversity impacts, storm water runoff and long term operation practices all need to be carefully thought out and planned prior to implementation.” This means Skyline would have to consider and plan for the possibility of flooding and needing regular maintenance.

Because Skyline encounters a lot of fog, solar panels here would not be able to generate as much electricity as Cañada’s.

If Skyline were to install solar panels, “the image of environmental responsibility will make people think of Skyline as a school with solar power and it might help the school’s popularity.” Skyline students Jenny and Ton said. It may also cause other surrounding communities to become motivated to switch to solar in order to help the efforts of becoming a more green environment.

Another community college in the district that will follow suit and install solar panels is College of San Mateo. Since the campus is much larger than Cañada, they will need a larger amount of solar panels to generate enough power to offset half their power usage, as Cañada’s solar farm does.

This could be a bit more of a costly project, but the district was able to pay for Cañada’s project because of over $1.5 million in funds from the California Clean Energy Jobs Act and from incentives and rebates from other efficiency projects, said Fullerton.

“The district is the recipient (along with several project partners) of a grant to install a solar array,” he said.

Efficient software will also be installed at College of San Mateo. This shows potential for the use of cleaner energy to spread throughout the district and the recognition that solar power is an important and viable solution to the current ecological state.