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Davis, California

Thursday, October 21, 2021

UC Davis students, staff draw 62-acre loop around campus to model university’s solar power plant

ALEXA FONTANILLA / AGGIE
ALEXA FONTANILLA / AGGIE

Project focuses on emphasizing the importance of the solar power plant on campus and educating students on environmental sustainability

In April, volunteers from the Sustainable Resources Operations (SRO) club and staff at the Carbon Neutrality Initiative, the UC system’s commitment to emitting net zero greenhouse gases by 2025, completed a large-scale chalk outline in a loop around campus encompassing 62 acres of land, modeling the size of the solar power plant on the south end of campus.

The chalking consisted of large yellow suns hand-drawn at regular intervals along the path. There were roughly 12 sign designs with questions and answers providing fun facts about the solar farm, which were posted along the route on trees and light poles.

The groups set up a tabling display outside the ASUCD Coffee House by the Quad and invited students to walk at least part of the drawn-out route. Anyone that came back with at least two answers to questions from the signs received a free donut.

The purpose of this display was to spread awareness of the presence and importance of the solar power plant on UC Davis’ campus.

“I don’t know how well known it is among the UC Davis students that our campus has undertaken the Carbon Initiative Program that commits the University to emitting zero-net greenhouse gases from its buildings and vehicle fleet by 2025,” said Monica Gonzales, a second-year environmental policy and planning major who is a member of SRO and helped coordinate the project.

UC Davis’ 16.3 megawatt-sunpower solar power plant has been up and running since 2015, and generates up to 14 percent of the university’s electricity. It is the largest solar installation in the UC system and the largest “behind-the-meter” solar plant on a U.S. college campus offsetting electricity demand. It is expected to reduce the campus’ carbon footprint by 9 percent.

“The solar power plant, a step towards executing this goal, had opened earlier this year but a lot people were still not aware of its existence,” Gonzales said. “So our project was a way of bringing the solar power plant to students, and making them aware of not just the solar plant itself but also how it is that our campus is getting our energy.”

 

Zachary Ramalingam, a first-year sustainable environmental design major and member of the SRO, believes that the aim of the project was to recognize the size and impact of the UC Davis power plant.

“Our goal was to raise awareness for the solar farm, and do our best to make people care,” Zachary said. “The solar farm deserves recognition as the largest of its kind in the whole UC system.”

Along with other purchases of solar and hydroelectric energy, the plant is part of UC Davis’ plan to obtain 60 percent of its electricity from renewable and carbon-free sources by 2017, which is ahead of a state goal of 50 percent by 2020.

According to Jordan Ramalingam, fourth-year environmental policy analysis and planning major as well as president of SRO, a project like this is necessary to not only encourage environmentally conscious people to help make a change, but also to show that everyone has the ability to take action.

“Energy conservation and water conservation, for that matter, will not have a meaningful impact if only environmentally-minded individuals are taking action,” Jordan said. “Issues of sustainability need to be made practical and inviting to people who otherwise wouldn’t care, and this project was one way to reach this population.”

Written by: Demi Caceres – campus@theaggie.org

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