In one of his last acts as Los Angeles mayor, Antonio Villaraigosa on Wednesday is taking some power from the people -- literally. Villaraigosa, outfitted with the special white gloves of electrical workers, flipped a switch that activated an array of 336 solar panels on top of Oxnard Plaza Apartments, a 40-unit complex in North Hollywood. The energy generated will be sold back to the Department of Water and Power, thus bolstering the city's power grid.
For the eco-conscious mayor, whose terms ends next week, it was another step on the way to creating more green-collar jobs in Los Angeles. "We are able to bring you cleaner air today," Villaraigosa told a gathering of about 25 people on the roof of the four-story building in the 11300 block of Oxnard Street. "I remember the days when children couldn't go out of their classrooms because of the smog problems."
The complex is the first component of the DWP's Feed-in Tariff (FiT) Solar Program -- and the largest of its kind in the nation -- which turns buildings with flat roofs into virtual power plants. The DWP adopted the plan in January and committed to buying the electricity produced for 20 years. The city will pay 21 cents a kilowatt for Oxnard Plaza power.
The goal is to purchase 150 megawatts under the program, enough energy to fuel more than 43,000 typical homes and reduce 147 metric tons of CO2 emissions. This is equivalent to taking 28,300 cars off the road, according to the Los Angeles Business Council and the Clean L.A. Solar Coalition, which initially proposed the FiT program. It is also expected to create 4,500 construction, installation, design engineering, maintenance and administration jobs and generate more than $500 million dollars in private investment.
"The FiT program takes advantage of L.A.'s abundant sunshine to spur new private-sector investment that will create jobs and decrease our city's reliance on dirty fossil fuels," Villaraigosa said.
DWP general manager Ronald O. Nichols added the program is an important step forward in completely transforming the city's power supply and meeting the state-mandated renewable-energy level of 33 percent by 2020. Currently, 20 percent of L.A.'s power comes from renewable energy.
"This first completed FiT solar installation is physical proof that our FiT program is moving forward as we planned, and we could not be more pleased to be here today to celebrate this milestone," Nichols said. "It's just the beginning of what we expect to be a long and beneficial public-private partnership. Within the next few years, Angelenos can expect to see thousands of solar panels installed on apartment buildings, warehouses, parking structures and other rooftops throughout the city."
Bill Gallegos, CEO of Communities for a Better Environment, said the program is an opportunity for all areas of the city. "There is one thing about the sun -- it's very democratic," he said. "We are concerned about the health and economic well-being of our community. What excites us about this program is the new opportunity it brings to address long-standing issues in the communities of L.A. with high economic need. We will see job creation, small and medium-size business development and cleaner air to breathe."