Opinion: In WeHo Solar Panels Are MIA. Let’s Fix That ASAP

Photovoltaic panels in front of city night lights

West Hollywood boasts it has the lowest output of greenhouse gasses of all the West LA County cities, from Culver to Santa Monica to Beverly Hills. As the city this summer and fall completes community outreach for guidance on procedure viz the CAAP Plan, we should assess a few basics.

Years ago, at a Design Review Subcommittee meeting regarding esteemed, creative architect Lorcan O’Herlihy’s proposed building adjoining Gelson’s on King’s Road, I asked him why there were no solar panels on the roof. His answer: he achieved LEEDS status without them. Well, okay, again, why not add solar panels? The energy could be sold off back to the utilities. Seems simple enough: You know, love thy neighbor.

Now, open another window on your iMac or PC or phone and do a Google map or Bing map search of West Hollywood. Amid this congested amalgamation of flat roofed structures, from apartments to condos to offices to retail to city service buildings, something is missing. That something? Solar panels are M.I.A. throughout the entire city. Part of the 2007 WEHO Green Building Program, we’ve had 13 years to throw solar on rooftops. I don’t think we can count, say, 2 to 3% as a stunning success. Outside of the Design Center Tower on Knoll, almost no panels are in evidence from the sky. Zip. Part of the latest plan update was to save grey water and greenify rooftops with plantings (weed?—this is WeHo) ,and yet none are in evidence. Like, none.

Here’s an idea! Rather than sit around waiting for studies to be complete, committees to be formed, bidding processes to be complete and such, let’s act as if the future of us, indeed our very existence, might be at stake. Because it is.

Lately, the Novel Coronavirus pandemic has shut us down. Unemployment numbers are through the unsolared roof. Maybe there’s a symbiotic solution under our very noses.

Why not give a call to zillionaire Elon Musk and negotiate a bulk deal on his stylish and powerful solar panels. You know, like enough for those 97 to 98% naked rooftops. Then, we get Go Green Solar or another great company to train our newly unemployed hotel workers, bar staff, restaurant and retail folks to install those same panels. Heck, while we’re at it let’s get some green things growing on the roofs as well. Heck, while we’re at it, let’s construct car shade covers like CBS Television City has and top them with solar panels. Look at all those bare parking lots!!

The key to this strategy is ACTION, not dithering and bickering and worrying about spending general fund funds. This is precisely why we have a reserve. The mother of all Zoom calls should stoke all resources to mobilize immediately. Covid-19 could be with us for two more years! Let’s get this ball rolling so our big blue ball, Earth, has the Creative City lead the way. As goes WeHo, so goes …

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Josh Kurpies
Josh Kurpies
1 month ago

For those wanting to take a deeper dive on the issue: California Solar Mandate: The California solar mandate is a new building code that requires new construction homes to have a solar photovoltaic (PV) system as an electricity source. This code went into effect on January 1, 2020 and applies to both single-family homes and multi-family homes that are up to three stories high. California Will Require Solar Power for New Homes (May 9, 2018) https://www.nytimes.com/2018/05/09/business/energy-environment/california-solar-power.html There are exceptions….. California isn’t requiring rooftop solar on every new home after all (February 20, 2020) Supporters said the “community solar” program would… Read more »

The Real Zam
1 month ago

First and foremost, solar adoption is driven by electrical savings to individual customers. Traditionally, the cost of the panels are offset by government and utility incentives. The remainder is then financed over a period of time. The savings is realized by the reduced (or negative) electrical bill plus the cost of financing. Solar power is a decision that is made by individual homeowners and the incentives really only make sense for them. The urban nature of WeHo makes the economics of residential solar limited. The very powerful NIMBYs have also made these installations relatively complicated within our city. Programs for… Read more »

Steve Martin
Steve Martin
1 month ago
Reply to  The Real Zam

Thank you for your insights. The State passed a solar panel mandate for new commercial construction that now seems to have been waylaid. When we have towering new construction it would seem solar panels would be easy and viable .

Jonathan Simmons
Jonathan Simmons
1 month ago

Was that comment of Mr D’Amico a little…. No A LOT… The words of a city council member of a tiny little city, or the formal script of big business promoting more fossil fuel?

Even if the statistics & reality that they might not do much towards reducing global emissions.. A serious “white lie” about how concerned the city is in doing their part to inspire individuals to make better choices.

It will take billions of people deciding to do what’s best… Not D’Amico saying we are doomed and don’t bother with even trying??

Cathy
Cathy
1 month ago

Now this IS CREATIVE THINKING! Thank you Roy.

John D'Amico
John D'Amico
1 month ago

The installation of solar panels are a consumer savings option – that have no real effect on global warming or CO2 emissions. Since adoption of the consumer based CPA or Clean Power Alliance – every business, every resident In West Hollywood – services previously by Edison – can choose 100% renewable energy to power their home. And in fact we signed up every address for 100% renewable when we switched over. Consumers have to choose to receive power from non-renewable sources. So installing solar panels may provide cheaper electricity to a meter in the long run (usually after 10-14 years)… Read more »

Manny
Manny
1 month ago
Reply to  John D'Amico

Well, I guess that puts the kibosh on this idea.

Alan Strasburg
Alan Strasburg
1 month ago
Reply to  John D'Amico

This comment glosses over reality in several important ways. While it is true that the production of solar panels has environmental concerns, as well the still-unproven costs of decommissioning and replacing, the reality is that the use of solar panels is far cleaner. While not perfect (what is?) the goal should be to improve upon processes in place and make it better. Be careful of political spin that relies on vague words and phrases like may or not necessarily or no real effect. Such linguistic craftiness is merely an exit strategy from real commitment. Further, what’s wrong with consumer savings?… Read more »

The Real Zam
1 month ago
Reply to  John D'Amico

I do agree that the clean power alliance is a great thing, but this comment does deserve clarification. The advantages of the CPA and installing on site solar address two different pieces of the green power puzzle. Specifically, the CPA addresses the utility side of clean power in that it insures that our electricity comes only from green sources. But what we are really doing is paying the utilities for green power like the solar panels that continue to prop up across our state. This helps support these installations and other sources of green power which means that we are… Read more »

Greg
Greg
1 month ago

Can Weho create incentives for buildings (especially HOAs) to do this?
While I support solar, another green option would be to get owners to add rooftop trees. There are plenty of big building with flat roofs, and we all know planting trees would benefit our air and temperature.
Roofs should have solar or trees, but they need financial encouragement!

The Real Zam
1 month ago
Reply to  Greg

Now imagine for a second what happens when those trees get larger and their roots spread down from the roof into the attic or home below. Yes, this is a bit ridiculous but is only to prove the point that maintenance of a roof garden can be expensive and complicated. Irrespective of which, solar roofs provide superior thermal protection, much greater carbon offset, and a lot more value than a bunch of small trees and plants. Still, if you want a roof to play around on, you might as well make some of it green.

Alan Strasburg
Alan Strasburg
1 month ago

Yes! It’s time to cut through the BS of bureaucracy and the crippling effects of commitee-ing the hell out of things and just get it done. There will be objections on design, but it’s time to change our collective aesthetic values to embrace solar.

Charleston Brown
Charleston Brown
1 month ago

You need politicians not beholden to fossil fuels. We need truly wise leaders with foresight. Not ones duplicating past ideologies. Help our future and grow your own foods even in containers!

Larry Block
Larry Block
1 month ago

Certainly a noble idea and can only speak from my experience. In my single family home the mailbox and phone are filled with offers of solar panels, free, state assisted programs— but when they came out to measure my house the positioning of the panels and ability to be effective was obstructed by trees and the next door apartment building. Since weho is 70% or more renters, and many buildings quite old, the landlord would have to install these panels and there’s an additional cost of sub-panels for each unit. The landlord usually does not pay utilities so this does… Read more »