SunPower to provide distributed solar for California university

SunPower (Nasdaq: SPWR) and the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB) on Dec. 17 announced plans for 5.2-MW (dc) of SunPower systems to be installed on rooftops and in parking lots on the university’s campus.

UCSB will buy the electricity produced by the systems at a competitive rate under a long-term power purchase agreement with SunPower. UCSB estimates the systems will generate about 12% of the campus’s total electricity use.

“These planned SunPower systems represent a key step in our efforts to meet goals set by the University of California and UC President [Janet] Napolitano to become carbon neutral by 2025,” said Marc Fisher, UCSB’s vice chancellor for administrative services. “This is good for the university and good for the campus, which is deeply committed to sustainability.

“With this model, we will buy green power for less than the cost of peak demand utility power. We estimate the savings will be nearly$270,000 in the first year of system operations and approximately $14 million over 20 years, which will allow us to invest in additional energy saving projects,” Fisher added. “Using savings from on-site green energy production to finance other projects to help reduce energy usage on campus is a win-win.”

“UCSB is renowned for programs to protect the environment and promote sustainability,” said Howard Wenger, SunPower president, business units. “SunPower is proud to be partnering with the university to significantly lower the campus’ carbon footprint with cost-effective, emission-free solar.”

SunPower will build solar power systems at six sites on campus, including two SunPower Helix rooftop systems and four solar parking canopies at campus parking lots. The SunPower Helix platform is the world’s first fully-integrated commercial solar solution combining solar power production and energy management. The new systems will increase more than ten-fold the amount of solar energy currently being generated on UCSB’s campus, according to the university.

“All around, it’s a smart thing for us to do,” said Jordan Sager, campus energy manager for UCSB. “In the middle of the day when these solar systems are generating at their peak, they will be producing about half of the campus’ power, which is impressive considering UCSB is the single largest electricity user in the region.”

SunPower was awarded the contract with UCSB after a lengthy feasibility analysis and competitive process that was initiated in 2014. Construction on the systems is expected to begin early next year, with system operation anticipated by year end 2016. The university will own the renewable energy credits associated with the systems.

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.