Due to a donation made to USC’s Wrigley Institute for Environmental Studies on Catalina Island, the University has procured its first significant source of renewable energy.
The 88-panel photovoltaic system will generate an estimated 20 to 30 percent of energy needed to power the Wrigley Institute, a research and educational facility for marine and environmental science.
Panels will generate power to support the cafeteria, the dormitory building and an electric vehicle charging station. Under full daylight, this amounts to 23.7 kW of power.
According to Jerome Jontry of USC’s Capital Construction, the system has a mechanism that will send energy produced past the building’s demands back into the Catalina Island power grid. Jontry, who is leading the installation, also said it will include an interactive component to enhance visitors’ engagement with the array.
This donation is the product of an arrangement between the University and Helix Electric. Rob Woolley, who led Dornsife’s efforts on the project, said the partnership is an example of coming together to bring sustainability goals to life. Prompted by a shared vision, Helix Electric donated the solar modules, inverter and racking system, while the Wrigley Institute and the Dornsife School of Letters, Arts and Sciences covered installation and other costs.
With this system, the institute can put into practice solutions for the very issues it addresses.
“The addition will allow us to model sustainable technologies to the several thousand researchers, students and guests that visit our campus each year,” said Jessica Dutton, a research associate at the Wrigley Institute, in an email to the Daily Trojan. “Catalina Island exemplifies many of the environmental challenges we face everywhere, only in a much more resource-limited setting. Conservation and the smart use of resources such as energy and water is key.”
Installation of the panels also represents the University’s first step in embracing renewable energy.
“I think it’s a symbol that our university is actually willing to understand that it’s a big contributor to climate change and accepting that in can be a leader not in just the education of environmental matters, but also in some of the operations,” said Ethan Bialick, a senior majoring in business administration.
Bialick is the founder of the USC Go Solar campaign, a group that does research and advocacy on solar power with the intent of introducing it on campus. Bialick’s goal is to initiate such an installation on the roof of the Galen Center.
“It’s the biggest rooftop at USC. It would generate a ton of energy,” Bialick said.
In the meantime, installation at the Wrigley Institute has begun, and the system is expected to be operational by January 2016.