Colleges Investing Heavily in Solar

Sustainability is an important selling point for colleges and universities. Students are not only demanding educational programs around renewable energy, they’re encouraging their own institutions to “walk the walk,” and install systems on campus.

A number of colleges around North America have installed large solar PV or solar thermal systems. But Butte College in Northern California claims it will be the first to be “net energy positive” when it finally develops a 2.7 MW PV system next year. The PV project is an addition to a 1.85 MW system already on campus. That will bring the system total to 4.5 MW of capacity.

If the system generates the 6.4 million kWh a year that is expected, Butte College will generate more power than it consumes, and will therefore sell electricity back to the grid.

College officials credit the student body for actively pushing the college to develop the system. The project will cost about $17 million to build, with around $13 million coming from a federal clean energy bond program known as CREBS.

Solar is popping up on more private and public schools around the country. Jonathan Postal, the Senior VP of Main Street Power, a Colorado company that focuses on this particular sector, talks about the drivers behind the solar-on-schools trend in a video interview below.

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I am a reporter with, a blog published by the Center for American Progress. I am former editor and producer for, where I contributed stories and hosted the Inside Renewable Energy Podcast. Keep in touch through twitter! My profile name is: Stphn_Lacey

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