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U California, Davis To Add 16-Megawatt Solar Plant

The University of California, Davis will build a solar power plant that will be the largest in the UC system and will meet 14 percent of the university's energy needs. Upon completion of the project next year, "more than one-third of total electricity demand on campus will be served from carbon neutral energy sources," according to a news release.

The 16-megawatt installation will be designed, built, owned and operated by SunPower and located on a 70-acre site, constituting "the largest solar power plant to offset the electricity demand of a U.S. university or college campus," according to information released by UC Davis.

"UC Davis' greenhouse gas emissions are lower today than they were five years ago despite campus growth," said Sid England, assistant vice chancellor for environmental stewardship and sustainability at UC Davis, in a prepared statement. "Adding the new solar project will help continue this remarkable trend and supports UC President Janet Napolitano's initiative to be carbon neutral by 2025."

Features of the project include:

  • Single-axis tracking technology, which allows the panels to track the sun throughout the day, increasing energy production approximately 25 percent compared to fixed panels;
  • Robotic panel cleaning to reduce water usage;
  • The ability to generate 33 million kilowatt-hours annually; and
  • A 9-percent reduction in the campus carbon footprint.

"SunPower's first project on the UC Davis campus included the design and construction of 4 megawatts of high-efficiency SunPower technology to power the UC Davis West Village neighborhood, the nation's largest net-zero community," said Howard Wenger, SunPower president, in a news release. "The university's bold vision to integrate cost-effective, sustainable energy solutions is unparalleled, and is further advanced today by this milestone commitment to build the nation's largest solar plant to offset electricity demand of a university campus."

In addition to environmental benefits, the university expects the project to serve as "an effective long-term hedge against future utility rate increases," according to a news release.

"UC Davis is already a national and international leader in sustainability, but this new project truly puts us in a league of our own," UC Davis Chancellor Linda P.B. Katehi said, in a prepared statement. "We are pleased to join with SunPower in making this solar plant a reality and hope that the success of this public/private partnership spurs similar initiatives at universities across the country."

About the Author

Joshua Bolkan is contributing editor for Campus Technology, THE Journal and STEAM Universe. He can be reached at [email protected].

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