Ana Toepel, Green Impact, November 2018
UCSF Contributes to UC’s Green Power Leadership
The University of California (UC) is stepping up as a leader among U.S. universities in its commitment to renewable energy. Last month it was honored with one of the 2018 EPA Green Power Leadership Awards at the Renewable Energy Markets Conference in Texas, based on its 2017 system-wide performance. These awards recognize leading Green Power Partners that have helped further the green power market through their purchase or use of on-site renewable energy applications, overall green power strategy, and impact on the green power market.
The following are some UC system-wide renewable energy achievements that contributed to UC being recognized by the EPA:
- Having 88 onsite systems and 5 offsite sources that generate renewable energy.
- Increasing total voluntary renewable energy production by 43% from 2016 to 2017.
- Producing 44% of its voluntary renewable energy on campus.
- Generating more on-site renewable energy than any other U.S. university.
This award came just on the heels of UC’s announcement in September that it would expand its sustainability goals and aim for using 100 percent clean power by 2025, the same year it has pledged to reach carbon neutrality. It appears to be making great strides in this direction, with the measures each UC campus is taking to produce renewable energy and the continued benefits of its solar farm in Fresno, the largest university solar project in the U.S.
UCSF Solar Installations Make Major Contribution
UCSF is one campus making a great contribution to furthering UC’s green power production, namely with a major solar installation project it has initiated this fall at six sites. The project will install more than 4,700 solar panels, which will produce approximately 3.1 million kilowatt hours (kWh) of renewable electricity per year, enough to power 446 average California homes and provide about 4 percent of the annual electricity used at UCSF. On top of all that, over the next 25 years, the project will reduce UCSF’s carbon dioxide emissions by about 10,631 metric tons and save about $3.7 million in utility costs. Jamie Hand, Energy Manager for UCSF Facilities Services, shared, “This project is part of our plan to reach carbon neutrality by 2025. It’s exciting that UCSF is doing the right thing and reducing our greenhouse gas emissions all while actually saving on our utility bills; it’s a win-win.”
The sites included in this current solar installation project are:
- UCSF Fresno
- Dental Clinics
- Oyster Point
- Rutter Center Garage
- Owens Street Garage
- Mission Hall
The current project will increase UCSF’s on-site solar capacity to 2,042 kilowatts, from the 246 kilowatts generated by existing installations on the 3rd St. Garage, Genentech Hall, and the Aldea conference center. This positive trend is slated to continue, with UCSF building the majority of its new construction projects solar-ready so that solar can be added to those buildings during a future phase of the installation project. In addition to installing solar on new buildings, Hand says that “other parts of UCSF’s carbon neutrality plan include buying more renewable power off-site and continuing to invest in energy efficiency to reduce natural gas and electricity use.”
Solar Partner SunPower Delivers Benefits
In order to make this major installation project a reality, UCSF engaged SunPower, a global solar technology and energy services company based in San Jose, to be its partner, negotiating a Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) over a 25-year contract term. Engaging a green power partner such as SunPower in a long-term contract helped UC win the above-mentioned EPA award for Direct Project Engagement.
According to Hand, PPAs are common in the solar industry and enable institutions to benefit from receiving the clean power generated by solar arrays without owning or operating them. In this case, rather than UCSF buying and installing its own solar systems, SunPower finances, designs, constructs, and operates them for UCSF for 25 years. SunPower was a good choice for a partner, not only because their proposal made financial sense, but because of its reputation for having very efficient solar panels and strong track record on similar solar projects, including some at other UC campuses.
A PPA made sense for UCSF for several reasons. There are no upfront construction costs, and clean electricity is obtained at a lower rate than PG&E would charge for the same amount of power. The solar company can receive tax incentives not available to a public university and is incentivized to keep systems performing well since customers only pay for power that is delivered. Another benefit is that electricity purchased is at a known rate for the next 25 years, protecting UCSF from uncertain and volatile electricity prices.
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