“A Green Light for the Inland Empire” by Chris Crossan

“A Green Light for the Inland Empire” by Chris Crossan, Mosaic

Tomorrow is a turning point in the life of Randy Schultz. And if the promise of solar power continues, Randy is about to ride the crest of a wave that is a turning point in the life of our nation.

On Friday, October 30, 2009, Unit 2 of the Fontana Solar Project, a Southern California Edison solar-powered project managed by Randy, will go online. During peak usage it will provide 1 Megawatt of power to households in the Inland Empire, or enough power to supply about 1,300 homes.

“This has been a life-long dream for me,” says Randy, who wanted to work with electricity since Jr. High school. “I love constructing things, and these last 18 months have been the most enjoyable in my career.”

Randy, who has a degree in mechanical engineering from Western Michigan University, began at Edison over twenty years ago, helping their pipeline engineering group revamp Edison’s unused oil depots to service oil companies who needed storage facilities. Later he worked on wind energy projects, and most recently switched to a small solar engineering team. When the Public Utilities Commission gave Edison approval to install photo-voltaic cells on top of warehouses in Fontana, Randy’s group jumped at the opportunity.

“This project is one of a kind. No other utility in the U.S. has done this before,” explains Randy. “Basically, with the use of cheap photovoltaic panels on top of these warehouses, we can produce power at less than half the cost of current residential and commercial solar power systems.”

Matt Wrye, staff writer for the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin, wrote about Edison’s future plans for this project:

Ultimately, Edison wants to lease enough Southern California commercial rooftop space – probably about 150 buildings – equal to 2 square miles and throw thousands of more solar panels into the mix to pump 250 megawatts of electricity onto the grid.

That power would equal about one-tenth the electricity created by one of California’s largest power plants, the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station. That is enough power for 162,000 households, according to Edison.

A double-page photograph of Randy’s project was in the September 2009 issue of National Geographic.   Some fascinating notes from the companion article:

Back in the 1980s, an engineer named Roland Hulstrom calculated that if photovoltaic panels—the other big solar technology—covered just three-tenths of a percent of the United States, a 100-by-100-mile square, they could electrify the entire country.

People thought he wanted to pave the Mojave with silicon. “The environmentalists got up in arms and said, You can’t just go out and cover a hundred miles square,” Hulstrom said recently as he sat in his office at NREL. But that’s not what he meant. “You can cover parking lots with photovoltaic. You can put it on house roofs.”

And that is precisely what Randy’s team is doing.

Randy feels that it was God who put this opportunity before him. Earlier in his career while attending the Church on Brady/Mosaic, he remembers being encouraged to look for positions of influence in his profession, since God called us to be the light of the world. And although he never grasped for a promotion, his dedication and responsibility for every project entrusted to him paved the way for him to lead in this new arena as well. “I’ve always tried to make my boss look good, and I try to take care of those who work under me,” Randy says, following the advice of the apostle Paul to servants and masters in the Roman period.

“I see it as a way to please God, not just my company.” The fact that during a time of global warming and our national environmental crisis his engineering efforts are resulting in a green revolution in the Los Angeles basin brings him untold joy. “Just think of it,” Randy muses, “God made the sun as a blessing to us. And I get to be involved in capturing that energy.”

Randy is not the only one rejoicing with this trend. Governor Schwarzenegger, who attended the opening of Unit 1, was equally proud: “This proves you can protect the environment and the economy at the same time. I think this will get bigger. We see it as a trend to continue for many years to come.”

Rejoice with me as we celebrate this moment of victory in the life of Randy and Diane Schultz, and in the life of Mosaic.

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