Viridian Note 00187: Solar in LA

Bruce Sterling []

Key concepts
Los Angeles Convention Center, photovoltaic power, rolling blackouts, AstroPower

Attention Conservation Notice: It's about architecture in Los Angeles, often considered an oxymoron. Contains boring electro-wonk speak from public relations outfits. Almost 1,800 words. Lots of time-consuming links of dubious relevance.

Entries in the Viridian Magazine Cover Contest: (((He added a new entry, too)))

New entries have shown up, but are not yet available on the Web. We will therefore extend this cover contest until the end of Labor Day (9/5/02000). Might as well do some more web work == it's too hot to go outside anyway.

Links The LA city power utility's green outreach program. If you can wade through the bureaucracy, it looks like they might pay you to put some solar on your house. The Los Angeles Convention Center is really big, really shiny, and really anxious for your business. Los Angeles touts itself as a world center of creative design. The June 2000 issue of "Trends in Renewable Energies," a swell green-energy e-zine. This has nothing to do with Los Angeles, but check out those virulent "ad banners." Those "programmer's t-shirts" are also flaunting some serious attitude.

(((Los Angeles recently re-surpassed Houston as America's smoggiest city. Thanks to ferocious Greenhouse heat, utility deregulation, and steadily rising demand, Los Angeles is also having an across-the-board electrical power crisis. Let's see how those inventive Angelenos creatively respond!)))

Los Angeles Dept of Water and Power "Press Release


"Contact: Los Angeles Department of Water and Power Walter Zeisl +1.213.367.1342 +1.213.367.3227 after regular business hours

"AstroPower, Inc. Michael Wright Telephone: +1.302.366.0400, Ext. 195


"Contract to AstroPower, Inc. for Phase One of Ambitious Program Announced

(...) "This contract is the largest single award for solar power since utility deregulation was introduced in the U.S. seven years ago. The contract represents only the first phase of an ambitious four-year, $38 million program to provide clean solar power to LADWP customers.

"'This marks a new chapter in our quest to make solar power widely available in the City of Los Angeles,' said Angelina Galiteva, LADWP director of strategic planning. 'We hope that other energy companies throughout America will take our lead and give the people what they want: electricity that is clean, safe and reliable.'

(...) "Many of the solar panels AstroPower will provide under this contract will be installed on the Los Angeles Convention Center. When completed this fall, this facility will be the largest solar-powered building to date in North America." (((These solar panels were loudly showcased during the Democratic National Convention, but the Party's out of town now, while the lust for power is chronic.)))

(...) "The solar program is one in a series of environmental initiatives that include the Green Power for a Green LA, Energy Solutions for a Green LA, Cool Schools Tree Planting Program and Electric Transportation for a Green LA. Information about these programs is available at"

(((Meanwhile, over at AstroPower's public relations office:)))

"AstroPower Powers Up Large California Convention Centers

"Solar Power Systems to Provide Valuable Peak Electricity Amidst California Power Crunch

"NEWARK, Del., Aug. 29 /PRNewswire/ == The Los Angeles Convention Center is now generating its own electricity with solar panels supplied by AstroPower, Inc. (Nasdaq: APWR). The Anaheim Convention Center will soon be doing the same, with the installation of a similar system this fall. (...)

"'Rising power bills and threats of blackouts in California have been front page news all summer,' said AstroPower President Dr. Allen M. Barnett.

"'Clearly, more power generation is needed, and solar power is an ideal solution. Solar electric power is clean, renewable, non-polluting, and it provides electricity during hot summer days when utility power is in shortest supply.'

"The first phase of the LA Convention Center project, a 120 kW system, was installed in time to provide power for the Democratic National Convention. The system has over 2,000 solar panels, and is designed to blend in with the Convention Center architecture. Panels are mounted on a highly visible curving wall overlooking the busy Harbor Freeway in downtown Los Angeles." (((The Los Angeles Convention Center is a busy mass of mirrorshades that all look just like solar panels.)))

"The Anaheim Convention Center project will use over 900 AstroPower panels, and will be rated at 100 kW. These larger panels are being integrated into PowerGuard roofing tiles manufactured by PowerLight Corporation of Berkeley, CA. These roofing tiles generate on-site electricity, and add roof insulation. They also lower building cooling and heating needs and extend the roof's life." (((And they cost a fortune, too, but we're working on that.)))

"'Our solar electric power systems are also available for homes and businesses,' said AstroPower Director of North American Business Howard J. Wenger. 'They're simply mini versions of the large Convention Center projects. We're starting to see some growth in sales to consumers who want to make their own clean electricity, reduce the impact of utility rate hikes, and have back-up power in the event of blackouts."

(((Why not cut right to the chase?)))

Company/ Market/ Stock Symbol/ Latest Close/ 52-Week Range

AstroPower NASDAQ APWR 29 5/16 10.87-49.37

(((What's all this Los Angeles power fuss about, anyhow?)))

Link: htm

"Electricity Outages Getting Some Users All Steamed Up

By NANCY RIVERA BROOKS, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer

"California's power emergency has been a rude awakening for about 1,200 manufacturers, hotels, schools, retailers, hospitals and other outfits that have endured major outages over the last several weeks.

"The fallout ranged from minor aggravations to major financial losses: There were science experiments that went bad. Satellite components that didn't get built. Amusement park rides that slipped into eerie darkness." (((Oh yeah. I am so with that last Californian detail.)))

"These big electricity users have been getting cheaper electric rates for years as a reward for putting themselves in exactly this position: agreeing to slash power consumption when the state's supplies run dangerously short. This summer, for the first time, they're repeatedly being called upon to live up to their agreements. In doing so, they are among the last sentinels on the edge of an unknown territory created by California's electricity crisis." (((Any Californian anxious to explore the "unknown territory" of spotty electrical supplies should hop in the old Greenhouse sport-ute and visit Mexico. After all, you guys used to be Mexico, and with a little more heat and less infrastructure, the good old days are back.)))

"Without these customers' energy crash diets, neighborhoods around the state could be plunged into the first deliberate blackouts since World War II." (((Can the boys in khaki-green be far behind? Better wait till they're through fighting those Montana wildfires.)))

"But many of them are getting tired of this summer's severe disruptions, which are collectively costing them millions of dollars in lost productivity if they interrupt power == and millions of dollars in fines if they don't." (((Put it on the coal company's tab.)))

"If all of the state's 'interruptible' customers comply with the call to reduce usage on a hot day when supplies are short, they theoretically could decrease power demand by nearly 3,000 megawatts, equal to the production of six mid-size power plants. Actual relief has never exceeded about 1,900 megawatts, but that can make a critical difference when demand is peaking above 42,000 megawatts and the power grid is using more than 95% of available electricity."

(((You may have missed it, but they said "42,000 megawatts!" While the LA Convention Center, America's biggest solar building, boasts 1.5 megawatts in a full California sun. But we Viridians don't see that glass as half-empty == why, there's a mere 41,999.5 megawatts to go!

(((Meanwhile, life goes on in Southern California's new "voluntary brownout" regime. This could be your town some fine summer day, if it isn't already:)))

"Knott's Berry Farm first kills lights and air conditioners in its backstage and administrative areas, but several times has needed to close some popular rides, such as Big Foot Rapids, for a few hours.

"Children's Hospital of Orange County switches to a backup generator so patient care is not affected.

"Hyatt Regency Long Beach shifts laundry operations to the evening, cuts power to parts of the hotel that aren't being used and switches off lights in the lobby, relying instead on sunlight streaming in through walls of plate glass.

"Because the program is voluntary, not every customer curbs power use when asked, although the price of noncompliance is a heavy fine (...) There is evidence that compliance is slipping, particularly in the 50,000- square-mile territory served by Southern California Edison. (...)

"Already this year, Cal-ISO has called for power interruptions 12 times for a total of about 13,450 megawatt hours. Last year Cal-ISO called for a single power interruption of about 1,155 megawatt hours." (((A ratio of 12 to 1 is quite a trend line in one year: imagine the fun in 2005.)))

"While these interruptible users say they are proud of the finger-in-the-dike role they play in assisting the electricity grid, many are complaining. (...) Some Southern Californians to grouse that they are bailing out their neighbors to the north, including electron-guzzling Silicon Valley."

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