University of California, Davis, Chancellor Linda P.B. Katehi, and SunPower representatives today (Nov. 20) are dedicating the university’s newly constructed 16.3-megawatt (AC) solar power plant. The new plant, which UC Davis estimates will generate 14 percent of the electricity the campus needs, is the largest solar installation in the UC system and the largest “behind-the-meter” solar plant on a U.S. college campus offsetting electricity demand. The university expects to reduce the campus’s carbon footprint by 9 percent, or 14,000 metric tons, as a result of the system.
“This is a compelling example of how, with partners such as SunPower, we at UC Davis are reducing our carbon footprint,” said Katehi. “By taking steps to aggressively reduce our carbon emissions, we can set an example to the nation and the world of what can be achieved when we combine political will with science and innovation.”
Located on a 62-acre site south of Interstate 80, the plant was designed and built by SunPower, which also owns and operates the project and sells the power to UC Davis.
“UC Davis has a singular vision for integrating sustainable energy solutions,” said Howard Wenger, SunPower president, business units. “SunPower has been pleased to partner with the university, first on the landmark zero-net energy UC Davis West Village community in 2011, and this year on the completion of the 16-megawatt plant we are celebrating today, the UC system’s largest operating solar power plant. SunPower is working with universities and colleges that are increasing their reliance on solar power to support their sustainability goals and achieve the extraordinary long-term value SunPower systems deliver.”
At the site, SunPower installed a SunPower Oasis Power Plant system, a fully integrated, modular solar power block engineered to rapidly and cost-effectively deploy utility-scale solar projects while optimizing land use. The technology includes robotic solar panel cleaning capability designed by a SunPower innovation team based near UC Davis. It uses 75 percent less water than traditional cleaning methods and may improve system performance by up to 15 percent.
Solar power and renewable energy at UC Davis
Combined with other purchases of solar and hydroelectric energy, the plant is part of UC Davis’ plan to obtain 60 percent of its electricity from renewable and carbon-free sources by 2017, ahead of a state goal of 50 percent by 2020.
In addition to the new, 16-megawatt plant, UC Davis also has the capacity to generate about 1 megawatt from solar panels atop carport-like structures and on top of buildings. The UC Davis West Village neighborhood has a separate power grid, including 4 megawatts of SunPower solar panels.
The University of California Office of the President announced last year that it will purchase more than 200,000 megawatt hours per year of solar energy to supply several campuses, including UC Davis. In 2013, UC President Janet Napolitano committed the University of California system to a goal of zero carbon emissions by 2025.