Southern California environment news and trends

Power-generating solar film developed at UCLA

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Now that’s technological innovation. A team of UCLA researchers has created a transparent solar cell that can be converted into an electricity-generating film. As reported by Bloomberg, the film could potentially be sprayed onto everything from car sunroofs to personal devices like an iPad.

“These results open the potential for visibly transparent polymer solar cells as add-on components of portable electronics, smart windows and building-integrated photovoltaics and in other applications,” said Yang Yang, lead researcher and UCLA professor of materials science and engineering in a press release.

While the development of such a film would revolutionize the solar industry with the ease of installation (as opposed to the industry standard panels), Yang says a marketable retail version is many years to come. Still, he admits that “several companies” have contacted him with commercial interests in the technology.

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Adele’s solar-powered beach house

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Adele addresses the audience after receiving her fifth trophy during the 54th Grammy Awards at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, California, February 12, 2012.

There are many perks that come with being the world’s best-selling pop star and a multiple Grammy award winner. In the case of British chanteuse Adele, one of them is a $3 million beach home in Brighton, England, complete with big-money renovations.

According to a report in Ecorazzi, converting the house to solar power with the installation of panels on the roof is among the abode's many upgrades.

“Adele’s house is something to behold,” a “source” told U.K. paper The Sun (you know you’ve made it when anonymous sources are talking to major news outlets about you). “She’s having loads of work done at the moment so she won’t move in for a while. But when she does, she’ll have one of the most eco-friendly houses in the area.”

If there were a cloud over Adele’s solar-powered happiness, it would be reports that a neighbor’s swimming pool construction will block her view to the sea. Then again, she could always just write a sad song about it.

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Solar power lights up 15 San Mateo County schools

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A partnership between the South San Francisco Unified School District and Chevron has resulted in what’s being called “the largest K – 12 solar and energy efficiency program in San Mateo County.”

Fifteen elementary, middle and high schools in the county will be outfitted with enough solar panels to generate 1.68 megawatts of electricity, which is expected to cut annual electricity usage by half and reduce carbon emissions by more than 1,500 metric tons. Financially speaking, that adds up to a whopping $20 million reduction in costs over the next 25 years.

The upgrades are being financed through Measure J, which was approved by voters in 2010. The local bond measure provided $162 million specifically for educational means, including infrastructure improvements.

"Harnessing the power of the sun helps make our schools more environmentally sustainable, cuts their energy bills, and creates thousands of teachable moments for our students," said California State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson in a press release. "That's a win-win-win proposition, for our schools and for California."

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California schools vie for national green awards

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Four California schools (including two from Manhattan Beach) have been nominated for the new federal Green Ribbon Schools Program.

Grand View Elementary and Environmental Charter High are the Manhattan Beach representatives; private Danville institution the Athenian and Longfellow Elementary in Long Beach round out the four California finalists chosen by Tom Torlakson, the State Superintendent of Public Instruction.

The U.S. Department of Education rolled out this new program last September after collaborating with various state agencies. The award criteria is to “focus on measurable outcomes wherever possible, and based on a comprehensive approach incorporating environmental learning with maximizing positive environmental and health impacts,” according to a department press release.

"Our state has always been a leader in environmental protection, and these four schools are proof positive that California's schools are still leading the way," Torlakson said in the release. "As a science teacher, it is heartening to see how these schools are weaving sound environmental practices into the lessons in their classrooms and the daily life of their campuses.”

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Positive education: Sacramento high school goes solar

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Ah, high school. Those were the days. Well, not really. I couldn’t wait to get out of that place. Then again, my high school was the kind of place that turns up in horror movies. But hey, it’s Friday night. I’d rather imagine that I went to high school in Dillon, Texas, and Tami Taylor was my sympathetic counselor. But I digress.

I’d like to think that the students of St. Francis High School in Sacramento will go on to have much happier memories of the best years of their lives. They’ll certainly have good stories to tell their kids, like how they remember when most schools were powered by expensive electricity, and not primarily powered by the sun.

St. Francis recently installed a 253-kilowatt solar energy system to seven buildings on campus, which is expected to generate up to 31 percent of the school’s electricity, and save them a whopping $1 million in energy costs over the next 20 years.

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