Project Focus: Butte College to become grid positive by 2011; adding 15,000 PV panels


Northern California’s Butte College is looking forward to calling itself the only college in the United States that is grid positive. The achievement is anticipated to be reached by May 2011, with the recent approval by the school’s board of trustees for the completion of its Phase III solar project. This next phase will add around 15,000 solar PV panels, 2.7MW (DC), to its 1.85MW generated from 10,000 solar panels. On completion, the system will total 4.55MW (DC), generate over 6.381 million kW hour of energy per year and potentially be the largest solar energy-producing college in the world.

“Once this solar project is completed, Butte College will provide enough clean renewable energy to cover all of our electricity needs and generate slightly more than we use–which will be a source of additional revenue for the college,” said Diana Van Der Ploeg, president of Butte College. 

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“Sustainability is at the heart of everything we do.  Being the first grid-positive community college in the country demonstrates our commitment to the sustainable practices we’re modeling for our students and our communities.”

The additional 15,000 solar panels will be installed on rooftops, create covered parking areas and walkways, and be ground-mounted installations. The US$17 million project received US$12.65 million in funding from the federal Clean Renewable Energy Bonds and $4.35 million funding directly from the college. The project will generate almost US$1 million in rebates from PG&E and the California Solar Initiative, and also benefit from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

The first part of the Phase III project will see an installation of 1,639 solar panels to create covered parking spaces at the Butte College Chico Center and generate 450kW (DC). Installation of the 13 new solar systems has begun at the college’s Chico Center campus and will end on the main campus.

Completion of the project is expected by May 2011.

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