CSU solar initiative to be completed by end of 2012

Mike Suechting

The final phase of the California State University’s solar initiative, which will add 13 megawatts of solar energy to the CSU system, began Sept. 9.

Twenty-one CSU campuses are under consideration for the third and largest phase, which is scheduled for completion by the end of 2012, according to a CSU press release.

About 3 megawatts of clean power was added to the university system after the first phase, which Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger announced in 2008. The second phase, which is scheduled to be completed by 2011, will add 8 megawatts.

All three phases will produce a total 25 megawatts of clean and sustainable energy, reducing the CSU’s carbon emissions by 13,000 metric tons. This is equivalent to taking more than 2,600 cars off the road, or having enough energy to power more than 1,600 homes.

Neither of the two phases slated for Sacramento State have begun.

“Sacramento State has projects identified for both phase two and phase one,” said spokesman Erik Fallis. “Any project identified for phase two that is not completed in that phase is considered a candidate for phase three. The timelines for individual contracts will vary by campus but all are expected within the next two years.”

A press release issued earlier this month explained that the funding for this project will come from 15 certified private companies, including Vanir Energy from Sacramento. The universities chosen to receive solar panels will be able to choose the company with which they would like to work.

The companies will be competing to finance, build, operate, maintain and own the panels for a period of 20 years. The CSU will then buy the power back, as if it was purchased from a power plant, from these companies at or below current retail rates.

“It will not cost the CSU or campuses anything up front. The campus will agree to buy back the power from the solar panels at or below current utility costs,” Fallis said. “This is advantageous for campuses because they will be receiving 100 percent renewable power at or below the cost of mixed renewable and nonrenewable “dirty’ power that currently comes from the grid.”

After the 20-year contracts have expired, campuses will have the option of purchasing the power for a depreciated price.

According to the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education, a group of universities and colleges that work toward energy efficiency and sustainability, the campus with the most solar capacity in the nation is Los Angeles Southwest College with 4 megawatts &- one-sixth of that of the CSU.

Energy-efficient buildings have also been built at Sac State.

This year, SMUD awarded $74,000 to the American River Courtyard residence hall for exceeding the state’s energy efficiency standard by 22 percent. The new residence hall has also been recognized by the Sacramento Business Journal for its energy efficient features.

Sac State also offers a class called Alternative Energy Systems, where students learn the nontechnical aspects and design features of alternative energy technologies.

Mike Suechting can be reached at [email protected].