It looks like the lack of green power at Harbor College is a result of a lack of brainpower.
Thanks to the Daily Breeze’s Melissa Pamer for the kind of story this old dog likes to chew onm we learned the Los Angeles Community College District has installed $25 million worth of solar panels five months ago at Harbor College – but can’t turn them on.
“That’s because the Los Angeles Community College District is still sorting out how to pay the eye-popping price tag for the solar panels – and how to get the local utility to approve their use,” Pamer says.
The district’s intention had been that Chevron Energy Solutions, which installed the panels, would own the solar equipment and sell the resulting power to the college district, using federal and state alternative energy incentives to bring down the cost. After six years, LACCD would have bought the equipment.
But district officials failed to get that arrangement approved by the Department of Water and Power, which unlike most other utilities in the state doesn’t like third parties owning rooftop solar because it would break up the monopoly it holds in safe-keeping for my pit bull pal Brian D’Arcy.
So DWP declared that a third party could not sell electricity to the college, causing Chevron to demand LACCD pay its construction bills.
Pamer said the “conundrum” (she was being polite) represents a small portion of an ambitious, nearly $6 billion bond-funded construction campaign that college district officials have heavily promoted as the nation’s largest “green” building effort.
Branded as BuildLACCD, the campaign grew in 2006 to include a proposal for one of the biggest solar installations in the country.
Behind the grand plans, the nine-college district has encountered the proverbial devil among the details. Right now, the question is: Where will the money come from for projects – at Harbor College and Pierce College in Woodland Hills – that are already built?
“That’s the big screw-up,” said Mona Field, president of the district’s board of trustees who never before saw a deal she didn’t like if it benefited the unions, special interests and political machine.
“I didn’t know we were approving projects without having the money. … It has turned into a bit of a mess, I must admit.”
A bit of a mess? Reporters can work a lifetime without encountering a public official that can dish out dumber quotes than Mona Field.
For the past few weeks, the nine-campus community college district — the nation’s largest — has been negotiating a complex deal to get a division of Citigroup to pay off Chevron. The bank, which has already provided a short-term loan to pay most of what is owed Chevron, would lease the solar equipment back to the college district, which would eventually buy it.
Larry Eisenberg, the man some call the “visionary” behind BuildLACCD’s green tinge, said he expects DWP to approve the lease and grant a state rebate to the project this week. (A spokeswoman for DWP said department officials had received the district’s application but would not comment on a customer account.)
Eisenberg, executive director of facilities planning and development, acknowledged the district had experienced some difficulty, but he said it was encountered while helping to pioneer a new kind of financing arrangement for solar installations.
“We’re sort of learning as we’re going. It would be nice if there had been a road map, but somebody had to go first,” Eisenberg said. “In the process of going first, you wind up exploring a fair number of dead ends.”
Pamer must be ecstatic covering the LACCD. Eisenberg’s quotes are almost as dumb as Field’s and he botched another deal Pamer came across right after the Harbor College fiasco
It was called the “Green Hive” and was the brainchild of business partners Kim Robinson and Kris Kimble who had this idea to create “a unique resource center for homeowners,
city planners and commercial builders to get hands-on learning about
They spent two years and $1 million in LACCD money developing their idea with Eisenberg’s help before the district suddenly pulled the plug because Eisenberg hadn’t checked to see it was illegal to use even a penny of LACCD’s billions in taxpayers money for the project.
“I was inspired by the possibilities and inspired by
Larry. He was portrayed as a visionary. … I was excited to be a part of that,” Robinson said.
Field offered this verdict: “It’s a big old mess.”
Next time the district puts a bond measure on the ballot, Pamer should interview him and Field — at length.