UC Riverside has opened a new solar farm that will produce up to 6.6 million megawatt hours of electricity each year making it the largest solar array in the University of California system. The project supports the system-wide initiative to have each campus produce up to 10 MW of onsite renewable power by 2014.
UCR signed a 20-year power purchase agreement that allowed the SunPower Corporation to construct, operate and maintain the facility, with the university purchasing the power. UCR spent $350,000 on site clearing and preparation, as well as interconnections costs with the existing substation. The projected savings to the university is $4.3 million over the length of the contract. UCR will also receive carbon and LEED credits that provide additional financial and environmental savings.
The solar farm went online as scheduled on Friday, Sept. 19, 2104. It has 7,440 panels across the 11-acre site using GPS tracking to slowly follow the sun across the sky. The massive sea of shiny panels is visible from Highway 60 as thousands of cars pass the campus.
“This is a big step forward, and we plan to do more,” said John Cook, director of the UCR’s Office of Sustainability. “On a hot and sunny day we will be producing nearly a third of UCR’s total energy needs with this system. But over the course of the year, with variable weather, it will amount to 3 percent of our total energy needs.” He added that Riverside’s typical sunny climate will make UCR an especially efficient place to invest in solar technology.