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Power Purchase Agreement Brings Solar Energy to UH Manoa Facility

The Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology (HIMB), of the University of Hawaii Manoa's School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology, will soon be using renewable solar energy to power its facility.

UH Manoa recently signed a 20-year power purchasing agreement (PPA) with SolarCity to provide energy services to its Coconut Island-based institute. Funding for the project was provided by the university's Center for a Sustainable Future, according to a statement released last week by the institution.

Installation of photovoltaic systems is already underway at HIMB. SolarCity will own and manage the rooftop systems. Made up of solar panels, the system will have roughly 260 kilowatts (kW) of generation capacity, enough to supply an estimated 25 percent of the institute's energy needs. UH Manoa intends to increase this percentage by implementing efficiency retrofits and energy conservation measures in HIMB's infrastructure.

This project moves the university closer to its goal of increasing clean energy use, campuswide, and driving down energy costs. San Francisco energy services consulting firm Newcomb, Anderson, McCormick worked with UH Manoa to hammer out the PPA with SolarCity. The university made no upfront payment for the project and has secured a below-market electricity rate. The university expects to save up to $2.3 million over the 20-year contract.

"This landmark achievement is a model for how we will proceed in the future," said UH Manoa Chancellor Tom Apple, in a prepared statement. "We have the unique opportunity to draw on the wealth of expertise on our campus, as well as our partners throughout the state, to set an example on what can be done to achieve significant energy savings. We’re making progress toward our goal of having 25 percent of campuswide energy use supplied by renewable sources by 2020."

Stephen Pauley, adjunct professor for the University of Hawaii's Sea Grant College Program, agrees.

"This solar energy agreement is the right thing to do for Moku o Lo'e (Coconut Island) and the university, not only in terms of energy cost savings but in principle," said Pauley, whose family gifted Coconut Island to the university in 1995 for the purpose of furthering marine research. "We need to support the work of our marine scientists with clean, renewable energy. Clean solar energy will not emit CO2 that warms the Earth and acidifies the oceans. The use of wind and solar energy on a large scale will give our children and grandchildren a quality of life that is slowly slipping away."

About the Author

Kanoe Namahoe is online editor for 1105 Media's Education Group. She can be reached at knamahoe@1105media.com.

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