Author Archives: Ilsa Setziol

Yes in Our Backyard

Rooftop solar can make a sizable dent in the West’s renewable energy needs

This week representatives from the federal Department of Energy and Bureau of Land Management wrap up their California barnstorming swing, to gauge public opinion on the topic of siting solar projects. Throughout this often contentious debate, many have claimed that a potentially huge piece of the power solution is being overlooked; rooftop solar.

Acres of flat-roofed commercial buildings in California's Inland Empire. (Photo: Craig Miller)

Fly into Ontario airport in Southern California’s Inland Empire — or just zoom in on Google Earth — and you’ll see hundreds of block-long warehouses. There are acres — probably square miles — of flat, gray roofs sizzling in the San Bernardino County sun.  Soon, though, instead of merely soaking up the rays, hundreds of industrial rooftops in Southland cities will harness them to feed the local electrical grid.

Solar panels ready for installation on Ontario warehouse. (Photo: Ilsa Setziol)

Southern California Edison and independent power producers holding contracts with the utility are building 500 MW of solar panels on warehouses and, to a lesser extent, on the ground at other Southern California locations.

Together these projects are expected to produce enough energy to rival a traditional power plant, enough to serve about 325,000 homes. Continue reading

Water and Power

Two recent events provide a timely backdrop for this conversation, the water level in Lake Mead, the huge reservoir on the Colorado River, reached a record low — and the National Center for Atmospheric Research released a new report on projected drought impacts, worldwide, described as “possibly reaching a scale in some regions by the end of the century that has rarely, if ever, been observed in modern times.”  — Ed.

David Nahai on at the Los Angeles River in 2006 (Photo: Ilse Setziol)

David Nahai was CEO and General Manager of the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) from 2007 to 2009. On Nahai’s watch, the utility amped up renewable energy projects and launched new outdoor water restrictions that resulted in Angelenos cutting their consumption by more than 20%.

 I first met Nahai a decade ago when he and other members of the Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Control Board were grappling with what was arguably the nation’s worst urban runoff problem.
 Currently he’s a green-tech consultant and advisor to the Clinton Climate Initiative (CCI).

 I sat down with him in his little corner of a Century City high rise. He started by reminding me that opinions expressed in our discussion were his alone, not those of CCI: Continue reading