USC installs solar panels atop Galen Center

The project is 13 times larger than the previous solar projects on campus combined.

On Saturday, a large crane hoisted solar panels atop Galen Center at the corner of West Jefferson Boulevard and South Figueroa Street. This was the first step of the clean energy makeover of Galen Center.

This solar project, with approximately 600k watts of solar energy, is 13 times bigger than the previous solar projects on campus combined, according to Zelinda Welch, energy manager of USC facilities onsite. Welch put forward the initiative a year and a half ago.

“The sports lights have all been changed. We are working through the backup house lights, the solar project, which is starting today,” said Paul Neidermire, Galen Center manager onsite.

Galen Center has replaced original sports lights with LED color-changing lights with lower wattage. “It used to take twenty minutes if it shut down…and now instantly, just like lights switching in your house,” Paul said.

The color-changing features of new lights can not only diversify the fans’ experience at Galen Center but also reduce the arena’s energy significantly. According to Zelinda Welch and Paul Neidermire, the new lights will lower wattage by 40%.

Besides renewing lights, Galen Center is also going to build an optimized cooling system with a new chiller called the Pony Chiller. According to Zelinda Welch, rather than the two big chillers used right now that cool the whole center, the Pony Chiller is a small and refined chiller that can cool down the places where they are needed, which will help to save more energy and resources for maintenance.

“It’s really been the right time,” she said. “People have realized climate change is here and that universities have to take a stand.”

Sustainability is a top priority for USC President Folt. The university has begun to develop a sustainability 2028 plan, which includes specific long-term sustainability goals, according to the press release. Zelinda Welch said this solar project is a kick-off that helps the university understand the process of a sustainability project and figure out the 2028 plan.

Next Saturday, USC will host its first green game against the Arizona State Sun Devils at 5 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 29. It aims to be a zero`waste sports event. According to Paul, the efforts of achieving this goal include changing compactors to compostable ones, setting different waste stations and assigning people to various locations to educate the audience about what is recyclable and compostable. Paul said these efforts will then inform USC about how to be zero waste in the future.