Sunday, March 06, 2011

The Last Laugh: L.A. Community College "dream" of green

You know a lot of people talk about how these environmentalists are a little crazy and aren't really practical. Well, this story isn't going to help squash those stereotypes.
Larry Eisenberg had a vision. "Amazing," he called it. "Spectacular."

The Los Angeles Community College District would become a paragon of clean energy. By generating solar, wind and geothermal power, the district would supply all its electricity needs. Not only would the nine colleges sever ties to the grid, saving millions of dollars a year, they would make money by selling surplus power. Thanks to state and federal subsidies, construction of the green energy projects would cost nothing upfront.
Wow...what a great idea. What could possibly go wrong?
He overestimated how much power the colleges could generate. He underestimated the cost. And he poured millions of dollars into designs for projects that proved so impractical or unpopular they were never built.

These and other blunders cost nearly $10 million that could have paid for new classrooms, laboratories and other college facilities, a Times investigation found.
Plans for large-scale wind power collided with the reality that prevailing winds at nearly all the campuses are too weak to generate much electricity. To date, a single wind turbine has been installed, as a demonstration project. It spins too slowly in average winds to power a 60-watt light bulb.
well that's not good either
Eisenberg eventually put together new financing deals to pay for the $44 million in solar projects Chevron was building. The federal tax credit and utility subsidies will cut installation costs by 26% — far from the 90% savings Eisenberg once promised.

Even so, the cost will be steep — $33 million for solar arrays that will provide less than 7% of the district's electricity needs and will produce minimal savings on its power bills.

All told, the college presidents have agreed to build no more than 16 megawatts of solar projects — well short of the 60 megawatts that Eisenberg says would be necessary to meet all the campuses' power needs. So far, the district has built just 6 megawatts.
ouch. This falls under the no duh I guess. But here is the worst part. Instead of admitting he screwed up, here is his response to this;
But Eisenberg said he still believes the college system can achieve energy independence, even if progress toward that goal has been "much slower than I'd hoped for."

"Ultimately," he said, "I believe we'll get there."
I guess it's funny and sad a the same time to think about how much money has been wasted on this project that could have been used elsewhere. Nice job hippies.

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