SunPower lights up 16-MW solar project at California university

University of California (UC), Davis Chancellor Linda P.B. Katehi and SunPower representatives on Nov. 20 were dedicating the university’s newly-constructed, 16.3-MW (ac) solar plant.

The new plant, which is estimated by UC Davis to generate 14% of the campus’ total electricity needs, is the largest solar installation in the UC system and the largest “behind the meter” solar plant on a U.S. college campus off-setting electricity demand. 

“This is a compelling example of how, with partners such as SunPower, we at UC Davis are reducing our carbon footprint,” said Katehi. “By taking steps to aggressively reduce our carbon emissions, we can set an example to the nation and the world of what can be achieved when we combine political will with science and innovation.”

Located on a 62-acre site south of Interstate 80, the plant was designed and built by SunPower (NASDAQ: SPWR), which also owns and operates the project and sells the power generated to the university.

“UC Davis has a singular vision for integrating sustainable energy solutions,” said Howard Wenger, SunPower president, business units. “SunPower has been pleased to partner with the university, first on the landmark zero net energy UC Davis West Village community in 2011, and this year on the completion of the 16-megawatt plant we are celebrating today, the UC system’s largest operating solar power plant. SunPower is working with universities and colleges across the country that are increasing their reliance on solar power to support their sustainability goals and achieve the extraordinary long-term value SunPower systems deliver.”

At the site, SunPower installed a SunPower Oasis Power Plant system, a fully-integrated, modular solar power block engineered to rapidly and cost-effectively deploy utility-scale solar projects while optimizing land use. The technology includes robotic solar panel cleaning capability designed by a SunPower innovation team based near UC Davis and uses 75% less water than traditional cleaning methods and may improve system performance by up to 15%.

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

In addition to the new plant, UC Davis also has about another megawatt of solar capacity from solar panels in campus parking lots and on buildings. The UC Davis West Village neighborhood has a separate power grid, including 4 MW of SunPower solar panels.

The University of California Office of the President announced last year that it will purchase more than 200,000 megawatt hours per year of solar energy to supply several campuses, including UC Davis. In 2013, UC President Janet Napolitano committed the University of California system to a goal of zero carbon emissions by 2025.

Located near the California state capital, UC Davis has more than 34,000 students, and the full-time equivalent of 4,100 faculty and other academics and 17,400 staff. 

SunPower provides a diverse group of customers with complete solar solutions and services. Headquartered in Silicon Valley, SunPower has dedicated, customer-focused employees in Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe, North and South America.

About Barry Cassell 20414 Articles
Barry Cassell is Chief Analyst for GenerationHub covering coal and emission controls issues, projects and policy. He has covered the coal and power generation industry for more than 24 years, beginning in November 2011 at GenerationHub and prior to that as editor of SNL Energy’s Coal Report. He was formerly with Coal Outlook for 15 years as the publication’s editor and contributing writer, and prior to that he was editor of Coal & Synfuels Technology and associate editor of The Energy Report. He has a bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan University.