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DC Solar Freedom helps bring solar power to Mills

DC Solar Freedom brought 13 solar panels to Mills. (Laura Elizarraras)
DC Solar Freedom brought 13 solar panels to Mills. (Laura Elizarraras)

On Nov. 16, students and faculty gathered to watch the installation of an interesting contraption brought to campus as part of a new sustainability initiative at Mills.

DC Solar Freedom, a benefit corporation in partnership with clean energy company DC Solar Distribution, Inc, recently launched an initiative to bring solar power to college campuses at no cost to the institution. The project provides participating colleges with light towers, mobile solar-powered generators, charging stations for electric cars and charging stations for personal devices such as cell phones and laptops. Mills is the first college to participate in the program.

As what can best be described as two solar panels attached to a wheeled platform, the function of the DC Solar Freedom mobile generator isn’t readily visible. According to Nicole Gaetjens, Mills’ sustainability coordinator, the generator captures and stores solar energy that can later be used to charge devices such as cell phones and laptops through the generator’s power stations. The unit can also serve as a backup generator in the event of an emergency.

“The [generators] can offset energy from a small building, as well,” Gaetjens said. “The main thing is the storage capabilities, so that even if the sun isn’t shining at that point, you can still deliver the solar energy.”

Gaetjens says she first became aware of DC Solar Freedom when she attended the California Higher Education Sustainability Conference last July. The fact that the generators were supplied at no cost, in addition to the College’s desire to support alternative energy solutions such as solar power, led Gaetjens to bring the project to Mills. She says that the charging stations powered by the generator near the Tea Shop could be effective in reducing the College’s carbon footprint.

“For immediate greenhouse gas reduction, the personal device chargers seemed great because then, people can plug in there outside the Tea Shop instead of to the actual electric grid [powered by coal],” Gaetjens said.

ASMC Sustainability Senator Octavia Sun cites solar power as one of the best and most reliable sources of renewable energy.

“Solar power is easier to install and is more accessible than wind power…hydroelectricity is expensive and can have dangerous effects on the [surrounding] environments and ecosystems,” Sun said in an email.
Sun also explained that solar energy makes sense for a city like Oakland, where sunny days are more prevalent than windy days.

Mills is known for its commitment to sustainability. It has been ranked as a Best Green College by the Princeton Review and is currently home to two LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certified buildings. In an effort to maintain this commitment, Mills is seeking to expand the campus’ reliance on solar power.

Mills now has solar powered generators, electric car charging stations and a solar powered charging station from DC Solar. (Laura Elizarraras)
Mills now has solar powered generators, electric car charging
stations and a solar powered charging station from DC Solar. (Laura Elizarraras)

Gaetjens says that the College is looking to resume construction on a farm near Richard’s parking lot which initially broke ground in 2011, with solar energy as a potential power source.
Mills’ contract with DC Solar Freedom provided twelve generators to be distributed on campus, with an option for eighteen more generators to be supplied, should the College wish to expand the project.