Martifer Solar USA has completed a 1.142-MW solar PV system, a combination of a parking lot carport and a hillside ground-mount at Occidental College. This represents one of Martifer Solar USA’s most unique installations as it incorporates elements of art into the design of the system. Kara Bartelt of Lettuce, a Los Angeles architecture firm, conceptualized the unique elliptical pattern of the hillside portion of the installation.
“The Martifer-built Occidental College solar array is one of several initiatives on campus to respond to the threat of global climate change,” said Dr. Daniel Snowden-Ifft, physics professor and the driving force behind the project. “It is sustainable from economic, environmental and aesthetic perspectives and as such, it exemplifies one of our main messages to students — that big problems often require multi-disciplinary solutions. I hope it will inspire our students, our community and others to think outside the box.”
Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa enthusiastically endorsed the new approach during a December campus visit. The array “is truly visionary,” the mayor said. “I will task the DWP with doing more of this kind of thing… This array is a beautiful representation of what a solar array can look like.”
The carport portion of the system consists of 1,380 panels, which feature three electric car chargers as well as an art panel installed on the underside of the array for fire safety. It will allow for shaded parking for up to 94 faculty and students. The 3,586-panel ground-mount portion of the system was custom-built by Martifer Solar USA despite uneven terrain, the steep slope of the hillside and wet weather. All of the 163 tables, consisting of 22 panels each, were individually tested for quality assurance prior to being lifted by a crane for installation on the hillside.
“While our chief goal has always been to reduce the College’s dependence on fossil fuels, the time we spent in developing the array reflects our desire to address solar power in a new, creative way,” said Occidental President Jonathan Veitch. “It represents a new paradigm for arrays as architectural objects that, like buildings, are expected to contribute aesthetically to their environment.”
The total system will save Occidental College about $250,000 per year in electricity costs and provide lifetime environmental benefits equivalent to 60 million pounds of carbon dioxide.
“We are very proud of this beautiful, landmark installation completed in collaboration with Occidental College,” said Roland Kiser, CEO of Martifer Solar USA. “Despite the initial challenges faced on this project, we were able to provide the school with a quality, state-of-the-art system that has already proven to exceed performance expectations.”
— Solar Builder magazine