More than 4,500 solar panels are being installed on campus this summer as part of the university’s efforts to become carbon neutral. Construction began in mid-July, and the panels are expected to go into operation around October.
“Cal Poly Pomona has long been recognized as a leader in sustainability, and these solar panels move us closer to our goal of carbon neutrality,” says Ed Barnes, vice president of administrative affairs. “They also will serve as a model of our efforts to promote environmentally friendly practices on campus and in our region.”
The 4,640 photovoltaic panels will be placed on canopies covering a portion of Parking Lot M as well as the roof of Kellogg Gym (Building 43). The solar systems can generate up to 1.8 million kilowatt hours of electricity annually, the equivalent of powering 161 homes for a year. The carbon savings is equivalent to planting 282 acres of pine trees.
“The campus’ total annual electricity consumption is 45 million kilowatt hours,” says George Lwin, manager of energy services. “So these solar panels will be producing a small percentage of the campus’ electricity needs, but it’s a start.”
A charter member of the Presidents’ Climate Commitment, Cal Poly Pomona pledged to become carbon neutral by 2030 and developed a climate action plan that details the necessary changes. The plan includes short-term and long-term goals that affect every part of campus, from transportation to student life to facilities to agriculture.
The panels on the Kellogg Gym roof are scheduled to begin producing power by the start of fall quarter. The canopy-supported solar panels in Lot M will begin generating power around October, and they will also provide shade for about 380 cars. A portion of the lot has been fenced off for construction during the summer and will re-open in the fall.
Through a statewide competitive bid process, SunEdison, which is headquartered in Maryland, was selected to provide affordable solar power at several California State University campuses, including Pomona, Bakersfield, Monterey Bay and San Bernardino this year. Using an innovative Solar Power Purchase Agreement established between the state Department of General Services and the CSU, the campuses will reduce their impact on the environment while producing 4 megawatts of zero-emission solar photovoltaic power.
Cal Poly Pomona will not incur any up-front costs, thanks to the purchase agreement with SunEdison and $2.21 million in incentives from the California Solar Initiative program. The agreement allows Cal Poly Pomona to buy renewable power at or below current retail electricity rates while avoiding the cost of installing the system. Under this agreement, SunEdison will finance, build and operate the solar panels for 20 years.