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Solar panels to replace trees in south entry parking lot

By Dave Jones on August 12, 2011 in University News

The Davis campus is preparing to “park” more than 1,200 solar-energy collector panels in Lot 1 immediately south of the south entry parking garage.

The solar installation is one part of a project in which the campus is putting up solar panels at seven sites to feed the campus’s electrical system and reduce our carbon footprint. Campus officials said UC Davis is making a minimal investment, under an agreement with Boulder, Colo.-based Main Street Power Co., which is financing and building the system, will own, operate and maintain it, and will sell the power to UC Davis.

Parking Lot 1's solar panels, each about 18 square feet and generating up to 235 watts, will be installed on two carport-like structures running east-west, with the panels tilted to the south. One of the structures will go in the median between two runs of parking spaces, and the other structure will go on the south side of another run of parking spaces.

To make way for the solar structures, the campus Grounds and Landscape Services unit this week cut down 38 ornamental Bradford pear trees. The solar structures will provide even more shade than the trees over the parked cars, said Pablo Orozco, assistant director of engineering in Design and Construction Management.

The parking lot installation, with a capacity of 289 kilowatts, is the largest of the seven installations; all of the others are going on rooftops (see the locations below).

Power output from the parking lot panels is estimated at 414,000 kilowatt-hours in the first year, according to Orzoco, who explained that the output decreases gradually as the system ages.

First-year output from all seven sites together is estimated at 1.1 million kilowatt-hours, or 1,100 megawatt-hours. That is about the same amount of electricity that goes into Mrak Hall or Kerr Hall in one year, said David Phillips, utilities director.

At the same time, the campus will post a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions — by purchasing less carbon-based fuel. Correspondingly, the campus's power providers can cut their carbon dioxide emissions by 800 metric tons annually — the equivalent of taking more than 150 passenger vehicles off the road.

The other sites in the solar project, listed with their generating capacity and the estimated electrical output in the first year of operation:

  • Teaching and Research Winery, and the August A. Busch III Brewing and Food Science Laboratory, at the Robert Mondavi Institute for Wine and Food Science — 103 kilowatts (148,000 kilowatt-hours)
  • Gallagher Hall (Graduate School of Management) and the adjacent Conference Center — 102 kw (143,000 kwh)
  • Segundo Dining Commons — 77 kw (104,000 kwh)
  • Tercero Dining Commons — 57 kw (106,000 kwh)
  • Segundo residential housing (north) — 70 kw (111,000 kwh)
  • Segundo Services Center — 54 kw (80,000 kwh)


Media contact(s)

Dave Jones, Dateline, 530-752-6556,