Solar Projects Projected to Save College $32.6 Million Over 20 Years
(Oroville, Calif)¬¬¬--With national attention focused on renewable energy policies, Butte College cemented its leadership in use of solar power by unveiling three new solar projects which will help the college achieve its goal of becoming a carbon neutral campus by 2015. With its newest sets of energy-capturing panels, 44 percent of the campus will be powered through solar energy-- making the college the largest solar producing campus in the state.
The college also projects it will save $32.6 million in reduced energy costs over 20 years. The college will realize this financial savings since over the next 20 years it will pay a fixed energy-use fee and not be subjected to energy price increases.
The 2,400, 185-watt Mitsubishi Electric solar modules make an impressive statement on a sloping hillside, absorbing sunlight into the solar cells and converting it into electricity. This recent addition of three solar arrays totaling 450 kW DC at three separate areas on the campus will produce an estimated 675,000 kWh of solar electricity annually and power 10 campus buildings. In 2005, the college installed its first 1.06 megawatt DC solar system which included 5,700 solar panels on a four-acre field. With the college's combined solar projects, the total projected energy generation is 2.7 million kilowatt hours each year. This generation could power 391 homes while preventing the emissions of 1478 tons of carbon dioxide, 11,610 pounds of sulfur dioxide, 8,640 pounds of nitrogen oxide, 9.72 pounds of mercury, and 432 pounds of particulate matter each year.
"By adding our latest solar arrays, Butte College is now the largest ‘solar' college campus in California. This marks our college's fourth campus solar project since 2005 and work is underway to complete a fifth solar project in May," said Dr. Diana Van Der Ploeg, Butte College president. "Our college has set a goal to be carbon neutral by 2015 and this project helps us toward this goal. Just as importantly, this project shows our commitment to model sustainability in everything we do - in our academic programs, career programs, student activities, and our land use practices. We would like to thank our partners for helping us achieve our goals."
Norm Nielsen, owner of Chico Electric, and a Butte College alumnus, was the solar installation vendor and said it took three months to complete. The ground-mounted solar array near the waste water treatment plant will offer even greater educational value. Chico Electric designed and donated a portion of the solar array to serve as a "training lab" for students and faculty. At this site classes will install actual solar panels into a solar array just as they would at an actual job site. "It's exciting to provide the college with a facility that can be used to train future solar installers," said Nielsen. "We're glad to be a part of this effort."
The solar projects will save Butte College money, save on emissions, and encourage students interested in renewable energy careers. Butte College will also have an interactive educational kiosk on campus where students can see the real-time performance of the solar system and learn how solar power works. We'll use this project as a living laboratory for our students just as we use the green buildings on our campus," said Jon Stallman, Butte College's sustainability coordinator and instructor.
The college just launched its offerings of "green classes" including a new certificate program in sustainability studies, green building courses, and green workshops offered on the weekends. Josh Pierce, Butte College associate faculty, said the energy policy within the state and federal government is evolving, and the college is studying where future green jobs will be available. Recognized as a national leader in sustainability among colleges, Butte College will soon host its third annual sustainability conference in August which will be focused on green schools, the green economy, and green energy.
The total cost for the college's latest three projects was $3.42 million and involved working with PG&E's California Solar Initiative which provided a $700,000 rebate check. "With key solar projects such as these, Butte College is a recognized national leader in sustainability," said Tino Nava, PG&E Account Manager, as he handed the college a PG&E California Solar Initiative rebate check. "We're proud to be an active partner in their sustainable efforts."
The financing for the project was made possible by Bank of America, through its 10-year, $20 billion environmental initiative to address climate change.
"I commend Butte College for completing this next step toward its goal of carbon neutrality," said Linda Crothers, president of Bank of America Public Capital Corp. "We are pleased to provide financing for this and other public and private sector projects so our clients can use solar to save money and reduce their carbon footprint."
This May, the college plans to complete yet another solar project, with more panels near the Child Development Center. Once installed, about half the electrical needs of the college will be provided by solar.
About Butte College, www.butte.edu
Butte College, located in Oroville, California is a two year academic institution, offering associate of arts or sciences degrees and general education classes to transfer to a four year college or university. The campus rests on a 928 acre wildlife refuge and was recognized as a national community college leader in sustainability as the grand prize winner of the 2008 National Wildlife Federation's Chill Out Contest: Campus Solutions to Global Warming. The college hosts an annual sustainability conference each August to share best sustainable practices among colleges and business owners.