Annenberg Radio News

USC and LADWP reach solar agreement

The 20 year agreement will power nearly a quarter of USC’s campus.

USC has struck a landmark agreement with the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power. The university will help support LADWP’s Solar Farm in the Mojave Desert, called SpringBok 3. Some electricity produced there will be sent to University Park campus and some will go to the Health and Sciences campus. Keck Hospital will not receive any. The University has agreed to purchase about 30% of what the Solar farm produces either using the electricity or claiming it as an offset for the fossil fuels that also power the campus. Zelinda Welch is an associate director of sustainability at USC facilities planning and management.

Zelinda Welch: “LADWP approached us with this opportunity to look at procuring, basically, the energy or electricity from the solar array out in the desert. And so, even though we don’t technically get the electrons from that system, we are buying the energy in real-time so that they have an off-taker for all the electricity.”

The university will get about a quarter of the electricity it uses from this new deal. This will go a long way to helping USC to reach the diversity, equity and inclusion goals outlined in what the university calls, “Assignment: Earth.” That’s the school’s working environmental framework through the 2028 L.A. Summer Olympic Games and beyond. This includes goals for USC to reach full carbon neutrality by 2025 and zero waste by 2028.

And with the deal, USC also becomes the first major institutional partner for LADWP’s “Clean Energy Adder” program. That will help make renewable energy sources increasingly available to underserved multifamily complexes around USC, Welch said.

Zelinda Welch: “It’s called the shared solar program, and the virtual net energy metering program. But some of it again is a lot of it is targeted at individuals who might live in like multifamily properties. So you can’t I just grew up on top of your apartment building and slap solar on it, right. Yeah, that’s how to kind of promote an ability for them to have better access to clean energy.”

USC’s Chief Sustainability Officer Mick Dalrymple explains that this is one of many efforts to make Los Angeles a healthier place to live.

Mick Dalrymple: “So, LADWP is already making its grid cleaner. So, they recently announced, the mayor announced that they reached 60% carbon-free energy and it’s you know, it’s important to designate between carbon-free and solar. It’s not all solar, it could be some nuclear- could be some hydro- stuff like that. So they’ve reached 60%, which is phenomenal. What this deal does is it accelerates us even faster, because it’s, you know, LADWP designating a specific project to us.”

USC’s deal with the city will last for the next 20 years.

For Annenberg Radio News, I’m Benjamin Papp.