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Butte College Powers Up Campus with New Solar Array

Butte College has turned on a massive set of solar panels from Mitsubishi Electric at its Oroville campus. The 2,400 185-watt Mitsubishi Electric solar modules, which wen live Feb. 18, occupy a sloping hillside near the community college's tennis courts, absorbing sunlight into the solar cells and converting it into electricity. This recent addition of three solar arrays totaling 450 kW DC will produce an estimated 675,000 kWh of solar electricity annually. By using a California Solar Initiative rebate, the college was able to save about $700,000 of the total project cost.

Other solar projects on the campus include panels at the water treatment plan and a roof-mounted solar array on top of the facilities building. Together, the projects will power 10 buildings and save the college an estimated $40,000 a year in energy costs.

The college reported that it plans to complete the final portion of the solar projects this spring, with more panels near a physical sciences building and a child development center. Once the additional solar panels are installed, about half the electrical needs of the college will be provided by solar.

The solar electric system was designed and built by Chico Electric, which also donated a portion of the materials near the sewer treatment facility for educational use by students. Classes will assemble and disassemble the panels as training for future jobs in energy technology. The college will also have an educational kiosk on campus where students can see the real-time performance of the solar system and touch an interactive monitor that teaches them how solar works.

The campus is ratcheting up its "green classes," including the introduction of a certificate in sustainability studies and green building courses and workshops on the weekends.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a writer who covers technology and business for a number of publications. Contact her at dian@dischaffhauser.com.

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