UC San Diego Enacts Green Energy Initiatives

University of California, San Diego, a university that considers itself to be one of the nation’s greenest college campuses, has begun construction on a sustainable energy program that it says is among the largest in the nation by a university.

The program, which includes solar, biogas fuel cells and wind energy, began with the first installation of solar photovoltaic (PV) panels from Borrego Solar atop a campus utility plant. When the solar portion of the project is complete, buildings and parking garages across the 1,200-acre campus next to the Pacific Ocean will feature solar panels with 2 megawatts (MW) of power capacity.

“This photovoltaic installation marks an historic event for a campus that has become a living laboratory for climate change solutions,” said Steve Relyea, Vice Chancellor of Business Affairs. “Our sustainable energy program is the result of a campus-wide commitment by students, faculty and administration to advance environmental sustainability on a local, national and global level.”

In addition to the solar photovoltaic project, UC San Diego will produce another 2.4 MW of energy from fuel cells powered by renewable methane. The methane fuel will be transported to UC San Diego from the Point Loma sewage treatment plant, where it is produced. Construction on this project will begin this fall. Not only does this produce green energy that replaces carbon-based energy, but it also removes pollutants from local air, since the methane is currently flared into the atmosphere at the sewage plant.

The university is also beginning a program to swap fossil fuel-generated energy for wind power. The university will throttle back its natural gas-powered cogeneration plant at night and replace the power with electricity purchased from California wind farms. This project, the first of its kind in California, will generate up to 3 MW of green energy.

The solar PV and biogas fuel cell construction projects are cost-free for the university. UC San Diego has negotiated power purchase agreements (PPAs), in which investors construct, install and maintain the photovoltaic panels and fuel cells on campus property, and the university then buys the power from investors through long-term contracts.

As Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego celebrates the 50th anniversary of the Keeling Curve, the first measurement of greenhouse gas build-up that was conducted by Scripps scientist Charles David Keeling, the university will soon have 7.4 MW of renewable energy capacity, which will provide 10-15 percent of its annual electrical usage.

In addition to the green energy initiatives, researchers and students at UC San Diego are working on a wide range of environmental sustainability projects, including developing biofuels from algae and wood debris. Planners at the school design green dorms with automatic sun shading to save energy and drainage systems that stop all storm runoff from flowing into the nearby ocean. And students and fleet managers have begun a biofuel shuttle bus line, which decreases UC San Diego’s reliance on fossil fuels.

UC San Diego has teamed up with local, national and international companies on its sustainable energy project. Three partners are working with the university on the solar PV project. Borrego Solar is the installer and Envision Solar is the designer of the solar “trees” that will be built on top of UC San Diego parking structures. Solar Power Partners is the financier and owner of the PV arrays. The biogas fuel cells are financed, constructed and owned by The Linde Group, an international industrial gases and engineering company.

Jim Gogek is National Media Relations Director at University of California, San Diego. UC San Diego, the third largest campus in the University of California system, is a major public research institution that has local impact, national influence and global reach.

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