Professor discusses success of former Decathlon participants
THE SANTA CLARA
April 17, 2014
San Jose, Calif., is now ranked as the nation’s fourth-best solar city, according to the Shining Cities report released last Thursday.
The report, which measures the top 20 American solar cities by total installed solar capacity at the end of 2013, ranks Los Angeles as the nation’s top solar city, with San Diego, Calif., Phoenix and San Jose behind it.
Remarkably, San Jose was ranked one spot higher in the report than Honolulu, Hawaii, which is known for its year-round sunny weather. According to Kelsea Jones, Deputy Director of California Solar Energy Industries Association, this year’s report was the first that ranked the top solar cities on a national level, and it was the first done on a per capita scale.
The Environment California Research and Policy Center, a statewide environmental advocacy organization, compiled the Shining Cities report.
The California Solar Energy Industries Association is located throughout California and is the nation’s oldest solar energy association. CALSEIA has been promoting the Shining Cities report in California.
“Just like (the city’s goal) to put a computer in every home and a smartphone in every hand, it has continued to be a leader when it comes to clean technology,” said Jones. “The vision, along with strong public policy, like rebates, debt metering and cutting through red tape, makes (San Jose) solar-friendly.”
Although Santa Clara does not have any research concerned with developing solar cells, the campus has been an active proponent of solar technology, according to Associate Professor Timothy Hight, Chair of the Mechanical Engineering Department and former director of the Solar Decathlon team.
Santa Clara uses one megawatt of (photovoltaic) solar arrays on campus, and participated in the Solar Decathlon competition to build solar-powered homes in 2007, 2009 and 2013. According to Hight, members of the 2007 Solar Decathlon team and graduates of Santa Clara started a company that pioneered solar technology.
“Eight of them that were all involved in the Solar Decathlon started Vailance Energy,” said Hight, “and their product became an energy management system that monitored not just solar, but any kind of energy production and use you had in a facility.”
According to Hight, Vailance Energy’s main products were greener drywall, material that easily absorbs moisture and energy-conserving windows. A larger energy company called Serious Materials eventually bought Vailance Energy.
Hight believes the main issue with the development of solar technology in cities is the red tape that holds back development. The city of San Jose has promoted the use of solar technology by removing the hurdles to installing solar technology in residences and commercial buildings.
“The technology issues aren’t what is holding solar technology back,” said Hight. “There are more problems with the cost of permitting and incentives for people to actually do it. San Jose has been one of the areas to make it easier to make it cut through that stuff.”
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