UCR Harnesses the Sun to Power Education

University of California Riverside (UCR), who just announced they are hosting a solar summit on February 6, 2014, has unveiled plans for a large-scale 10.92 acre solar farm to be located on the West Campus. UCR is partnering with SunPower Corporation for the project that when completed sometime in July of this year, will generate nearly three megawatts of electricity. Back in 2009, UCR and SunPower worked with UC Merced to install a one-megawatt solar array.

“Three megawatts is about 30% of our base load on a daily basis. Our peak load is 17 or 18 megawatts,” Ken Mueller, director of Physical Plant Operations said. “This is a good start and the campus will use 100% of the power that we generate.”

UCR campussolarfarm2-356x237UCR signed a 20-year power purchase agreement (PPA) and site license agreement (SLA) that will allow SunPower to construct, operate and maintain the facility, and the university will purchase the power that is generated by the dozens of 435-watt solar panels that will track the path of the sun through the sky. Mueller said that UCR will spend about $350,000 on site clearing and preparation, as well as interconnections costs with the existing substation.

The projected savings to the university are estimated to be in the range of $4.3 million over the length of the contract. UCR will also receive carbon and LEED credits that provide additional financial and environmental savings.

When completed, the solar project will be the largest on any University of California campus and when combined with other solar power projects in Riverside, solar energy will generate nearly 40 percent of the city’s electricity needs. The solar project is one of many that UC campuses are undertaking to meet the university’s policy on sustainable practices that includes generating up to 10MW of on-site renewable power by 2014.

Mueller said that the university hadn’t previously utilized solar power on campus because it did not make financial sense.

“We have had very favorable electrical rates with Riverside Public Utilities, but recently the price of solar has come down to where it is competitive with that electrical rate,” Mueller said. “We will be getting the most cost-effective solar array on the market.”

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