UC system pressured to 'Go Solar'

    (UWIRE) LOS ANGELES — In a state often characterized by the amount of sunshine it receives, students are trying to parlay these rays into providing energy to a substantial amount of the University of California.

    The UC Go Solar campaign has made its way to UCLA, with organizers and students currently garnering support from student governments systemwide to make all new buildings in the University of California powered largely by renewable resources — namely, solar power.

    “”California has to transfer to clean energy,”” said Byron Kahr, a field organizer for the Go Solar campaign. “”We’re hoping the UC system will become a worldwide leader in the effort.””

    Specifically, the campaign aims to have all new buildings in the university system installed with solar panels capable of generating 25 percent of a building’s power, with an additional 25 percent coming from renewable energy sources such as wind or hydraulic power.

    On Sept. 24, Kahr presented the campaign to the Undergraduate Students Association Council to ask for UCLA’s support on the student government side.

    UCLA External Vice President Chris Neal said the campaign is well-timed “”since [the University of California] is doing so much building.””

    “”If this is cost-effective, then it’s an advantageous thing to do,”” Neal said.

    According to early estimates, Kahr said the costs would be marginal to the university when considering the decrease in harm to the environment.

    Parts of UCLA have been utilizing solar power for more than a decade, with solar panels on top of the high-rise residential halls on the Hill. Dykstra, Hedrick, Rieber and Sproul Halls all have rooftop panels accounting for a minimum of 40 percent of the buildings’ hot water, according to Michael Foraker, director of housing.

    The campaign comes at a time when the University of California is building its tenth campus at Merced. Kahr said a critical piece of the Go Solar effort is the UC Merced campus, and if the campaign is successful, it would become the first campus to power itself largely by renewable energy.

    These efforts to move the UC away from oil-based energy also coincides with a landmark bill signed by Gov. Gray Davis in September. By signing Senate Bill 1038, Davis mandated that retailers of electricity in the state must increase their use of renewable sources by one percent per year and must be comprised of 20 percent renewable energy by 2017.

    The effect on the environment would be the equivalent of taking 3.3 million cars off California roads, said Erin Walsh, a UCLA campus coordinator for CalPIRG, the student lobbying group that helped propose Senate Bill 1038.

    California’s electricity is currently made up of 12 percent renewable energy, said Steve Maviglio, a press aide for the governor.

    Davis’ office hopes the new standards will decrease California’s dependence on natural gas and increase the use of wind, geothermal, biomass and solar resources.

    Pacific Gas and Electric Co., one of the state’s largest energy suppliers and which once had an energy monopoly in California prior to the utility deregulation of the late 1990s, supports the governor’s bill and expects to meet the 20 percent goal six years ahead of schedule in 2011.

    PG&E currently matches the state average of renewable source usage at 12 percent, and is already increasing its use at one percent each year, said Brian Swanson, a press aide for PG&E.

    Swanson added that the company has signed long-term contracts with renewable energy generators, including a large number of hydroelectric plants.

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