As UC Irvine expands its environmentally friendly energy capacities, the school will decide on a plan to implement solar power in the near future. The roof of the Anteater Recreation Center has been discussed as a candidate for the location of energy-efficient solar panels.
The decision process so far appears to be generating concern among some students, including Kyle Holmes, Associated Students of UCI’s administrative affairs vice president, and Kristen Cochran, a 2007-08 undergraduate representative on the ARC board.
“Unfortunately, students – mainly the ARC board – which is supposed to have the power to review the operations of the building, and the building’s director, Jill Schindele, were not notified that this was occurring,” Holmes said.
Kirsten Cochran expressed similar concern.
“It was extremely unfortunate that the faculty, staff, undergraduate and graduate students on the board were not able to discuss the impact the solar installation would have on the facility and its patrons,” Cochran said.
While Cochran noted that she was not against environmentally friendly energy, she believes that the new installation of solar panels will not benefit the ARC.
“At the ARC, we entirely support the campus’s commitment to going green … however, with that said … from what I understand the ARC will be paying the same amount for energy after the installation as we are paying now,” Cochran said.
Erin Lane, senior administrative analyst for Administrative and Business Services at UCI, was surprised to hear that any complaints were circulating as such student complaints filter through her office.
“We have received positive feedback from students that are excited about the installation of solar panels on campus. … To date, we have not been contacted directly by any member of the student body concerned about placement of solar panels on the ARC,” Lane said.
Holmes verified that he was not aware of any formal complaint being filed as of Friday, April 25.
Lane went on to address that the lines of communication between staff working on increasing UCI’s solar energy and the rest of the campus community will remain open.
“Staff working on the solar project will continue to consult representatives from across campus as they move forward and would be happy to meet with representatives of the student body,” Lane said.
Lane further emphasized that the exact location of the solar panels was still under discussion.
“In fact, the ARC might be a better location for a solar hot-water installation,” Lane said.
Samara Larson, interim director of Administrative and Business Operations for Facilities Management, which has overseen the project, also stressed that the ARC is not the sole candidate for the solar panels.
“We were thinking the ARC and the student center would be great places to put the [solar energy] kiosks,” Larson said.
According to Larson this is because the implementation of the green energy would be visible on campus from these locations. However, a third-party energy firm has been investigating the panels’ final location.
“The reality is they haven’t chosen [the final location] yet,” Larson said.
Under the third-party agreement, UPC Solar will own the solar-energy kiosks and sell the power back to school, circumventing the problem of spending millions of university dollars for UCI to buy its own panels. However, Larson said the energy bill will be lower with solar energy than it is now.
“When we buy power from solar power, the whole campus benefits,” Larson said. “We not only want to be green, but to be cost-effective.”
Larson added that there was no direct relationship between the building that the panels are on and the power received by that particular building.
“The ARC is connected to the main power system that connects to rest of the campus,” Larson said.
Jill Schindele, campus recreation director and director of the ARC Board, said she would be fine if the panels were installed on the ARC.
“The solar panels installed on the ARC would benefit the entire campus. There will be some maintenance, but not very much. … The bigger argument is that this is a student-funded facility and the board should be involved. … When we built the fields, the students were involved,” Schindele said.