Butte College announced plans to complete a massive solar array by 2011 that will produce more energy than the college consumes, making it the first grid positive college in the U.S. and the largest solar producing college in the world.
When completed, the college’s 25,000 solar photovoltaic panels will have the capacity to generate 6.4 million kilowatt hours per year, the same amount of electricity needed to power over 9,200 average-sized homes, or equal to taking over 6,000 passenger cars off the road. The college installed its first 5,700 solar panels in 2005.
In addition to saving the college US$150 million over 30 years, the northern California college’s solar panels will have significant environmental benefits, including a yearly reduction of over 6.9 million pounds of carbon dioxide (CO2), 27,000 pounds of sulfur dioxide (SO2) and 20,000 pounds of nitrogen oxide (NOX).
The project is being funded through a variety of sources, including almost $1 million in rebates from PG&E (NYSE: PCG), the California Solar Initiative, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and Clean Renewable Energy Bonds (CREBs). The CREBs bonds were arranged and funded by Bank of America (NYSE: BAC) via its 10 year, $20 billion climate change initiative.
Butte College is a signatory of the American College & University Presidents’ Climate Commitment (ACUPCC), an effort to accelerate climate protection by providing a framework and support for America’s colleges and universities to move toward climate neutrality and lead by example. To date, 674 colleges and universities have signed the pledge.
Georges Dyer from Second Nature, a nonprofit organization partnering with the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE) to administer the ACUPCC, describes the college’s move as “another big step toward climate neutrality and sustainability” and anticipates seeing a significant reduction in the college’s overall carbon footprint.
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