Shine Bright

Construction of solar panels continues to pop up around Grossmont Community College as the district strives to meet its sustainability goals.


Photo by Gideon Fogt

Gideon Fogt, Staff Writer

They have glass that sheens and energy that is clean. Students who have been around the campus parking lots have likely noticed the presence of this ongoing construction since it broke ground in November of last year.

Director of Facilities Loren Holquist and Interim Director of College & Community Relations David Ogul shared details about the district’s plans for these new solar energy structures.

The idea came to fruition in an agreement with the California Community Colleges’ (CCC) vision to boost sustainability. Grossmont College drafted its plans for the solar arrays last fall after years of research and working with the company ForeFronts as the project managers and designers. These plans were then submitted and later approved by the Division of State Architect in October.

Parking Lots 4, 4A, 6 and 7 are the primary sites for the construction. The sounds of trenches being dug and holes being drilled fill the atmosphere of the blacktops for the time being. 

“We anticipate the project to be completed in July, and lots 4 and 4A should be reopened by April 22,” Holmquist said. 

Grossmont Student Isaias Santis expressed positive sentiments about the green energy strategy and viewed it as a “good change” for the campus. Other students also conveyed their feelings toward the construction with similar optimism.  

“I love how our school is taking steps to help preserve the environment,” English Major Isabella Wright said. “Schools in general are not large polluters, compared to manufacturers, for example, but I believe a few extra measures could be taken to help further our goal.”

Other students, like Abdul Binisfran, had only recently learned of the projects and welcomed the news as a beneficial move for the school going forward. 

Besides being a symbol of the environmental movement, these solar structures also provide practicality with obvious and subtle benefits for Grossmont. 

Ogul anticipates close to $20 million in savings on electricity costs over the next 20 years for the college.

“Not to mention the unlimited amount of savings for people not having to get new paint jobs thanks to the sun no longer beating down on their cars,” he said. 

Indeed, the structures will also provide shade to more than 1,300 parking spots for both students and staff. 

The plan does not end with just the building of solar panels, either. It will also include implementing eight electric vehicle charging stations, something Wright mentioned she hoped to see in the district’s future strategies.

Energy storage units will also be constructed around Grossmont to help reduce dependency on the grid during peak power usage hours.

In terms of the financial costs, initial estimates put the total of this infrastructure at roughly $18 million for the school.

When asked if the district is planning more sustainability projects, Holmquist replied: “Most likely we will have more in the future. As our buildings increase and the state does require 100% sustainability, currently we are at about 69% of that goal.”

Along with Wright, Binisfran and Santis also said they desired to see a sustained commitment to more of these ecologically-positive ventures.

“It would be better for a lot of things and save money in the long run,” Santis said.

Climate change will only further challenge all aspects of life as time goes on and forces human entities of every scale to adapt. As the sun rises and sets, the campus population will find a whole new reason to feel energized.