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SDG & E; a Partner on Solar Conversion Project at the Science Center

The rooftop of the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center was luminous last Monday, when the center, San Diego Gas & Electric Co. and the city of San Diego unveiled more than 10,000 square feet of solar panels recently installed atop the Balboa Park building.

Owned and operated by SDG & E;, the solar photovoltaic system generates more than 100 kilowatts of electricity at peak production, enough to light 1,700 60-watt bulbs or power about 65 homes, said Dr. Jeffrey Kirsch, executive director at the Science Center.

The panels will feed electricity directly back into the region’s power grid.

Independent Energy Solutions Inc. of San Marcos was the integrator of the project, led by Chief Executive Officer Linda Strand, and Kyocera International Inc. provided the 684 solar modules.

The partnership of clean solar energy will prevent the release of approximately 60 tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere each year, according to Stacey LoMedico, the city of San Diego’s director of parks and recreation.

“We get so many beneficial materials from petroleum, it’s a crime to be burning it so rapidly for our energy,” said Kirsch.

Many scientists would agree that carbon dioxide is a primary agent contributing to global warming.


Incentives For Sustainable Projects

SDG & E;’s efforts to integrate clean energy generation with green building efforts are put into motion by the company’s Sustainable Communities Program. According to Mike Niggli, chief operating officer for SDG & E;, the regional program provides incentives for qualified projects to “build sustainable.”

Potential benefits include reduced project costs for infrastructure, landfill and construction materials, and lower operating and maintenance costs, while eligibility depends upon Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification.

LEED standards address more than the technicalities of installing solar panels , the certification issued by the U.S. Green Building Council ensures participants’ prolonged involvement in all areas of sustainable development.

“Our goal is that 20 percent of San Diego’s electricity will come from solar energy by the year 2010, and based on signed contracts to date, we’re halfway there,” Niggli said.

So who’s signing these contracts? What types of companies are on the horizon?

Currently, 14 customers other than the Fleet Science Center are working towards hosting SDG & E;’s large photovoltaic systems. Customers include office buildings, schools and commercial sites.

TKG Consulting Engineers Inc., with offices in San Diego and Seattle, has also joined the Sustainable Communities Program, installing sustainable features such as bike racks and showers for employees, a shuttle bus tying the building to railway transit, and a cool roof to reduce heat islands, according to TKG Principal Paul Gibson.

The Fleet’s rooftop project is among the first of its kind operating in an urban space, so while equipping residential spaces with solar power is a goal, residential use is not the immediate goal of this type of project.

The renewable energy resulting from the $820,000 venture will prevent the emission of 143 pounds of nitrogen oxides and 83 pounds of sulfur dioxide annually, according to LoMedico.

In addition to generating clean electricity, the solar panel system will be the centerpiece of a new exhibition at the Fleet called “So Watt! An Illuminating Look at Energy,” scheduled to open in August. The exhibition will introduce the basics of electricity and offer tips on energy conservation for consumers at home and at work.

Walking the talk, the Fleet has made tangible efforts to reduce energy and water consumption, and the facility uses less electricity today than it did before its 1998 expansion, which doubled the size of the facility.

“As the first San Diego museum to install a solar power system of this magnitude, we’re excited and proud to lead the charge toward cleaner air locally and help mitigate the effects of climate change globally,” said Kirsch.

Currently, SDG & E; has $485 million invested in clean energy projects.

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