Sacramento State University and multiple other California State Universities have recently been involved in a project to implement solar panels on buildings in order to drive down energy costs and work toward using alternative sources of energy.
Sacramento State is working closely with SunEdison, a company that specializes in solar energy information and services throughout the state of California.
“[This idea] came from the CSU system, they are actually doing this on 15 campuses, and we are one of the 15,” said Sac State spokesperson Mike Ward.
The CSU system is working closely with SunEdison to ultimately provide more solar energy to CSU campuses, in the hopes of helping the universities with their energy costs in addition to doing a service to the environment, Ward said.
“It’s a public-private partnership between SunEdison and CSU,” he added.
SunEdison will come to the Sac State campus to install the solar panels and maintain them. The energy generated by the panels will then be sold to Sac State at reduced cost, Ward said. The solar panels are expected to replace approximately 2 percent of Sac State’s annual electricity usage.
In a press release last month, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger said the project is intended for the greater benefit of California, and the CSU organization is a large factor in the process.
“With the partnership being announced today between California and SunEdison, we are seeing more tangible results and more follow through in reducing our state’s carbon footprint. This partnership is a good deal for the state, the planet and our economy – all at no cost to taxpayers,” he said.
While experts at UC Davis have looked into the idea of potentially using solar energy on campus, the pieces have not yet come together to create a feasible plan.
“Basically every year there’s somebody who is trying to work on something like [the CSU solar panel project],” said Bill Starr, senior project manager for Architects and Engineers at UC Davis.
The challenge facing UC Davis in regard to potentially installing solar panels is the amount that UC Davis currently pays for energy is already low, Starr said.
“Right now we pay a little under 8 cents per kilowatt hour,” he said. “There have been a couple of [proposal] writers saying they want to install solar panels and then lease [the energy] back to us – but they want to lease it back at 12 cents per kilowatt hour – and we would end up paying an extra 3 cents per kilowatt hour.“
Although UC Davis has managed to negotiate low energy prices, it becomes a double-edged sword, Starr said. It means that UCD pays cheap electricity but it‘s hard to get involved with these sorts of projects without having to pay back out.
While UC Davis may not be able to contract any major solar panel projects in the near future, experts are still open to ideas and negotiations, and it may be possible to start projects on certain buildings at UCD, he added.
“The most likely [building] now, that is likely to have [solar panels] is the Robert Mondavi brewery and winery plant that’s going to start construction in another year,” Starr said.
CAITLIN COBB can be reached at email@example.com.