Resiliency and sustainability were the words of the day as Los Angeles and U.S. officials met at a Hollywood Fire Station to launch on Oct. 9 a pilot solar energy project to secure power for first-responders during emergencies.
Mayor Eric Garcetti, Councilman Paul Koretz, 5th District, and LAPD Chief Ralph Terrazas welcomed U.S. Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz to the fire station at 1327 Cole Ave. to also discuss energy and climate resiliency as part of National Energy Action Month.
The Resilient Solar Pilot Project involves installation of a solar energy system, tied to both the electrical grid and backup battery power. The project will help reduce energy use, enhance energy security and maintain crucial emergency services during earthquakes or climate-related disruptions. It can boost the city’s emergency response capabilities after a natural disaster that could disrupt the electrical grid.
Garcetti served on the President Obama’s Climate Task Force and highlighted the need for grid-tied backup solar systems. Moniz said Garcetti and Los Angeles have been at the forefront of sustainable solutions.
“We look forward to partnering with Los Angeles because it’s a model for what can be done in other cities,” Moniz said. “We cannot address the climate problem successfully, globally, without having strong contributions from cities.”
Garcetti said the nation’s electrical grid is also vulnerable to climate-related disruptions like drought, extreme heat and increased fires.
“We have one of the most reliable power systems in the country, but if the power goes out in L.A., we must make sure our emergency operations are up and running,” the mayor said. “On-site resilient solar power systems … [are] cleaner than fossil-fuel generated electricity that travels across hundreds of miles of wires.”
Moniz said the country needs to build new energy infrastructure in a way that is “resilient to the many risks that infrastructure faces,” including extreme weather such as drought, heavy rains, rising seas or wildfires.
Moniz said the country learned a lesson with Hurricane Sandy about how the energy infrastructure is interdependent to a fault.
“This project with solar energy at the fire stations addresses one of those interdependencies that we saw when there was fuel available and they had no access to it because the electricity grid was down for so long,” Moniz said.
Moniz also announced the release of the U.S. Department of Energy report titled “Climate Change and the U.S. Energy Sector: Regional Vulnerabilities and Resilience Solutions.”
“It looks at all parts of the country and brings out the key threats to that part of the world. I regret to say this part of world occupies quite a few pages in terms of the threats that the mayor mentioned,” Moniz said.
Koretz pointed to the “crippling,” months-long fire season in the western U.S., floods in South Carolina, failing dams and flash floods in Utah.
“It’s getting scary,” Koretz said. “Here in Los Angeles, after years of drought we’re expecting an El Niño that’s been nicknamed Godzilla for how bad we expect it. The days of predictable and reliable weather are passed. We’re heading into a future where we need to be ready for anything, and that goes double for firefighters and first responders.”
Koretz said last spring a constituent opened his eyes to the “myriad of vulnerabilities” facing the electric grid, including from extreme weather. He said it inspired him to introduce a motion that the Los Angeles City Council will consider before El Niño could hit.
“We want to give LADWP an opportunity to explain what they’re doing to keep the grid safe and resilient,” he said. “We want to keep first-responders up and running no matter what. The spread of effective battery storage is how we will wean ourselves off fossil fuels once and for all. This pilot project is an amazing first step. I can’t wait to see it, and really, none of us can.”
The leaders were interrupted a few times when fire trucks came in and out of the stationon calls.
“I apologize for that activity, but this is a busy fire station,” Terrazas said. “Think about if we lose power and we get a call in the middle of the night. We’re not going to have any lights, we’ll have to figure out how to open that door, and if we have to refuel our rig, we can’t do it because we won’t have power. Our calls don’t stop if we run out of power, that’s why this project is so exciting.”
Garcetti said while it will begin in one firehouse, it’s not going to end there.
“We’re going to keep working with partners to bring this innovation citywide because when our grid is vulnerable, we all are vulnerable. When natural disasters strike we need to ensure that our public safety professionals always have the tools they need to keep us safe,” he said.
The pilot project is a collaboration between the city, the L.A. Fire Department Foundation, and Bollore Group, a French investment and industrial holding group that will cover the solar energy system’s estimated $300,000 cost.
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