USC signs solar energy deal with LADWP

The University’s contributions to the community energy programs will be split between the Shared Solar Energy program and the Virtual Net Energy Metering program. (Photo courtesy of Oregon Department of Transportation via Creative Commons)

After USC became party to a landmark deal with the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power last Wednesday, USC is receiving 25% of its energy from solar-generated power and promoting the advancement of solar programs within the surrounding community. 

Set in motion over three years ago, the 20-year agreement will provide the University with up to 25 megawatts of power per day from the LADWP SpringBok 3 Solar Farm in the Mojave Desert — nearly 30% of the farm’s yearly output. Power from the farm is being directed toward both the University Park Campus and the Health Sciences Campus. However, various attachments of Keck Medicine will not be receiving the power.

Overall USC emissions are expected to reduce by approximately 20%, placing the University on the cusp of climate neutrality for direct and indirect emissions by 2025.

USC’s Chief Sustainability Officer Mick Dalrymple said in an interview with the Daily Trojan that the deal is “a huge step forward for actually walking the talk on clean energy for everybody.”

“We’re actually contributing to LADWP, setting money aside to help neighbors around USC to get into solar either through community solar projects, or they’re buying into solar or receiving solar from an off-site project,” Dalrymple said.

USC is the first major institution to partner with the LADWP Clean Energy Adder program, according to Zelinda Welch, an associate director of sustainability at USC facilities planning and management. The program aims to make renewable energy sources increasingly available to underserved multifamily complexes.

“For every kilowatt hour we purchase, we also give a certain amount of money to these different programs that are run by the LADWP to help better access to solar and clean energy for the local communities,” Welch said. 

The University’s contributions toward the community energy programs are expected to reach $180,000 annually and will be split between the Shared Solar Energy program, which allows renters to offset a portion of energy usage with solar, and the Virtual Net Energy Metering program, which encourages solar development in multifamily complexes.

“It’s basically almost like a donation, but it’s part of our rate agreement — we pay for the electricity out of the solar plant and then we also pay an additional adder that then goes into these different programs that LADWP runs,” Welch said. “Helping fund these programs and support these programs is one of the larger commitments we’ve made.”

The deal will help contribute to the diversity, equity and inclusion goals outlined in Assignment: Earth, the University’s environmental framework through the 2028 L.A. summer Olympic games. The framework includes goals for USC to reach full carbon neutrality by 2025 and zero waste by 2028. 

The University will see a marginal increase in its electricity bill — less than 1% — to cover the rate change for the electricity and renewable energy credits, and funding provided to city Clean Energy Adder programs.

Solar energy has been a staple of the USC energy portfolio for several years now, with installations at the Cardinal and Gold apartment building and Wrigley Science Center on Catalina Island producing 20% of each facility’s needs. The solar panels atop the Galen Center provide upwards of 15% of the building’s expenditures, 600 kW, on any given day.

USC joins Stanford University, University of Arizona, Arizona State University, American University, the UC system and George Washington University in the high-grade integration of solar energy projects in their holdings.