Back when Bob’s Big Boy of Burbank opened 60 years ago, energy efficiency was not a major concern — crude oil was only $19 a barrel in today’s reckoning — and “green” was just a color, not an ecological philosophy.
Times have changed.
Today, everyone seems to be focusing on both reducing the energy they use and on looking for new ways to generate that energy. As part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the federal government is investing billions of dollars in large-scale alternative energy projects — solar, wind, biofuel, and geothermal — designed to deliver massive amounts of clean, renewable energy to the national grid. While these projects garner a lot of attention, many of them won’t come on line for several years and will take years more to pay for themselves.
It’s less grandiose but more practical initiatives that are making a difference now, to local communities, like the addition of solar panels to the parking canopy and neighboring roof of Bob’s historic restaurant.
“We’ve brought Bob into the 21st century,” said owner Philip MacDonald at a ceremony inaugurating the new 26 kilowatt photovoltaic system. “Solar technology is a viable option for powering retail buildings. Bob is setting an example for the community and our fans worldwide by employing solar power to generate a portion of the electricity used by the restaurant.”
The solar system was designed and installed by HelioPower and consists of 132 Canadian Solar CS6P 200 Modules and two SMA inverters. Energy generation is monitored by an SMA Sunny WebBox and graphically displayed through the SMA Sunny Portal system.
“From concept to design, implementation to a fully operational solar power system, HelioPower has done a wonderful job installing solar power on our historic building,” explained MacDonald.
Bob’s Big Boy of Burbank isn’t the only beneficiary of forward-thinking small-scale renewable energy initiatives.
- An affordable housing project for low-income seniors in nearby Oakland recently underwent a retrofit by National Semiconductor, installing a 30 kilowatt roof-top solar system.
- In Phoenix, Arizona, the children attending Wilson Elementary School are learning that renewable energy is a practical, realistic alternative with their 80 kilowatt solar photovoltaic system that adjusts to the tilt of the school’s roof.
- On the other side of the country, the Hyatt Regency New Brunswick in New Jersey installed a 32,000-square-foot, 421-kilowatt SunPower solar system over the top floor of the hotel’s garage.
It’s vital that initiatives like these are brought to public attention.
At Big Boy, well-known science educator and television host Bill Nye, “The Science Guy,” served as Master of Ceremonies in an event that included the Mayor of Burbank, the Burbank Chamber of Commerce, the U.S. Green Building Council-Los Angeles, and Habitat for Humanity San Fernando/Santa Clarita Valleys, the official charity of the Bob’s “Sixty and Solar” celebration.
Likewise, helping to focus public attention on the immediate and practical advantages of solar power, the non-profit American Solar Energy Society recently organized it’s 14th Annual National Solar Tour. ASES Executive Director Brad Collins observed, “From Main Street to rural retreats, the National Solar Tour is changing how everyday folks view their energy choices. The National Solar Tour is a catalyst that’s accelerating the use of solar energy and energy efficient practices across America.”
Public-awareness campaigns like this tour, along with media events like the inauguration of Big Boy’s solar system, help accelerate the adoption of alternative energy systems, to the benefit of us all.