California School Set to Become First Grid-Positive U.S. College
It's back to school, and back to solar for Butte College, a 21,000-student community college in Northern California, which recently announced its intent to become the first U.S. "grid-positive" college. Administrators plan to produce more electricity by solar power than the school consumes by adding approximately 15,000 solar photovoltaic (PV) panels by May 2011. The new arrays will generate 2.7 megawatts (MW) of power—which when combined with the 1.85 MW already produced from 10,000 existing campus solar panels—will make Butte the largest solar-producing college in the world, the college said.
The system approved by the schools' Board of Trustees will allow Butte to generate more than 6.4 million kilowatt-hours of electricity per year, which is enough to power more than 9,200 households. The school introduced PV to campus in 2005 and added to that over the years. Under the latest expansion, new solar panels will be installed on rooftops, on covered parking and walkways, and in ground arrays. The $17 million project will use $12.65 million in federal clean renewable energy bonds and American Recovery and Reinvestment Act allocations for the bulk of the cost. The remainder, up to $4.35 million, will be funded by college, which expects a $1 million rebate from PG&E, their utility provider, and the California Solar Initiative. See the Butte College press release.