Cal State Long Beach Adds Solar Panels on Campus, Advancing Sustainability Plan

installation group

Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia says that he’s proud to be an alumnus of Cal State Long Beach for making strides toward sustainable energy. Sitting down from left to right: Executive Vice President of SunPower Nam Nguyen, President Jane Close Conoley and Sustainability Coordinator Holli Fajack. Photos by Sahara Barba.

To advance toward a goal of carbon neutrality on campus by 2030, Cal State Long Beach (CSULB) recently completed construction on the largest solar panel installations in the city and of all 23 CSU campuses, a fact that was officially announced this morning during a ribbon-cutting ceremony.

Parking lots seven and 14 house the new solar panels. Several awnings line the parking lots without taking up space that might have otherwise been used for student vehicles.

The roughly $18 million project is not being paid for by the school, but instead through a Power Purchase Agreement.

CSULB has partnered with SunPower, a private developer, who will be paying for all of the costs upfront. In return, CSULB will pay for the energy that the solar panels produce over the course of a 20-year lease.

Though technology is quickly evolving, SunPower Executive Vice President Nam Nguyen said that the solar panels won’t become outdated and will continue to provide the same amount of energy and at the price originally agreed upon.

The new solar panels will generate about 15 percent of the energy consumed by campus annually. During peak hours, such as an exceptionally sunny afternoon, the panels are capable of producing one-third of the campus’ energy.

“At this moment, the university is not just leading within the collegiate system, but is showing this city and cities across the country how to do it right and how to really be sustainably responsible,” Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia said during the ceremony.

solar installation

The solar panels installed in parking lots seven and 14 will produce about 15 percent of Cal State Long Beach’s energy.

To further reduce CSULB’s ecological footprint, 44 new electric vehicle chargers are being installed and will be available for use in January.

“This means that we’re doing our part to support the state of California’s goal of having 1.5 million zero emission vehicles on the road by 2025, as we provide valuable service to electric vehicle drivers on our campus community,” CSULB President Jane Close Conoley said.

Jumping from having four frequently used electric vehicle chargers to 48, it might take some time for students to begin utilizing them all.

“I think there’s this perception that you have to be rich to have an EV,” CSULB Sustainability coordinator Holli Fajack said. “I mean, maybe if you’re getting a Tesla, but there’s so many incentives that the state has, like rebate programs, that it’s [in] a lot of ways cheaper or comparable to any other car.”

Additionally, CSULB is currently constructing a net-zero energy classroom building for the College of Continuing and Professional Education.

The construction will be completed next year and will be the only net-zero classroom building in the CSU system that will reduce overall campus energy consumption and produce its own energy.

Rather than a traditional ribbon-cutting, Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia and CSULB President Conoley did a “switch-flipping.”

Together they pulled the lever down on the side of a sign that read “4.75 MW OF CLEAN SOLAR ENERGY.” Powered by solar energy, the sign lit up and the song “The Power” by SNAP! played, bringing the ceremony to a close.

Primarily a commuter campus, CSULB Sustainability next faces the challenge of reducing greenhouse gas emissions from cars.

The issue is already being tackled by constructing a quarter-mile long bike route along Bouton Creek, which will connect to Long Beach’s own bike network.

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