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Using Solar Power to Run the Campus

Campus to Install Solar Panels on Parking Structure

November 4, 2008

Updated July 27, 2010

Cal State Fullerton will soon be harnessing the power of the sun.

Thanks to an agreement between the State of California Department of General Services, the California State University and solar service provider SunEdison, 15 CSU campuses, including Fullerton, are installing photovoltaic panels.

This week, Willem van der Pol, director of Cal State Fullerton’s physical plant, reported that the project is on target for completion during summer 2010.

Cal State Fullerton has incorporated a number of energy saving projects over the years (see below) but this is the first alternative power generation project on campus, said Willem van der Pol.

The university has completed a trigeneration project that will generate power for the university and will be installing the solar panels on the Nutwood Parking Structure after design is complete, van der Pol noted. When the panels are installed they are expected to produce about 600 megawatts of power, about 5 to 10 percent of the campus load depending on the time of day, said Jim Corbett, assistant director of programs and projects in facilities management.

“I'm very excited that we finally get this project off the ground,” said van der Pol. “We tried it a couple of years ago but because of scheduling conflicts, we lost our window of opportunity to take advantage of the available incentives.

“This is really a good deal for the campus. We get an installation at no cost and pay less for our electricity as a result,” he continued. “And on top of that, we get carports on the upper deck of the Nutwood Parking Structure so students can park in the shade.”

“California’s continued economic, environmental and social prosperity depends on sustainable energy and technology,” said CSU Chancellor Charles B. Reed. “As the nation’s largest university system, the CSU welcomes this opportunity to lead the way.”

The power-purchase agreement allows the CSU to purchase renewable power at or below current retail rates, while avoiding the cost of installing the system. Under the agreement, SunEdison will finance, build, operate and maintain the solar panels for 20 years. The solar panels are expected to deliver approximately 10 million kilowatt hours of clean renewable energy in their first year of operation, the equivalent annual energy consumption of 1,000 households.

“Kudos to our campus commissioning manager, Douglas Kind, for working the issues with the Chancellor's Office and the Department of General Services. A lot of effort went into this deal,” said van der Pol. “It is my hope that this will be the first of a number of energy projects that will help the university with it’s budget and the environment because we are decreasing our carbon footprint.”

Earlier Efforts

Cal State Fullerton has a long history of working to save energy and run a green campus.

“We are in the middle of an array of energy conservation projects,” said van der Pol. “Our associate director of projects, Jim Corbett, has been leading the charge for many years and as a result , our campus has a great record regarding energy consumption. Our BTUs (British Thermal Unit, a basic measure of thermal or heat energy)per square foot ratio is among the lowest in the state and has been for many years.”

In 2002, the university began using 11 electric vehicles purchased through the Ford Th!nk Neighbor Placement Program. The vehicles continue to be in use by such departments as Parking and Transportation, Public Safety and Information Technology and the number in campus use has increased to 75.

“Since then, we've added many more and right now have about 40 electric vehicles,” said van der Pol. “We are graduating replacing most of our gas and diesel vehicles with alternative fuel vehicles.”

In 1994, the university earned a more than $1.7 million rebate from Southern California Edison in recognition of campuswide improvements to reap energy savings, including upgrading its heating and cooling plant to an all-electric plant facility with zero on-site emissions. The campus also installed energy-efficient lighting, waste heat recovery systems and off-hour heating and cooling storage. The improvements saved 7.9 million kilowatt hours and more than $600,000 in electric power costs annually, as well as reduced its electric load by more than 4.67 megawatts. And that was on the heels of a 1990 $100,000 Edison rebate because of earlier improvements to the campus central plant.

Related Stories:

Campus Focuses on Sustainability

Campus Group Being Developed

Working to Build More Ecologically Friendly Campuses

Student Recreation Center Receives ‘Best Overall Sustainable Design’ Award

Campus Design for Student Union Central Plant is Honored

Building Design Wins Award for Being ‘Green’

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