Saturday, December 22, 2012

Solar Panels Installed

Sacramento State took another step forward in providing greener energy to the campus with the installation of solar panels on the Well and Library.
Three men work hard putting up solar panels on the rooftop of The Well.

More than 2,000 solar panels are being installed in an effort to reduce carbon emissions and provide cleaner, sustainable energy for the buildings.

Sac State Sustainability Committee member Alan Miller said the solar panels will be built and maintained at no upfront cost.

The only cost to Sac State will be purchasing the power from the provider, Vanir Energy.

Sac State’s energy director Nathaniel Martin said the partnership between the school and Vanir Energy made sense because the school will only be paying for the electricity produced.

“Usually you pay a bunch of money up front and you get money back every month and it’s usually that first cost that kills the project,” Martin said. “The only thing we pay for is the electricity.”

Miller said Sac State agreed to a 20-year contract with Vanir Energy to purchase electricity produced by the panels at a fixed rate, even if electricity rates for the rest of the school increase.

Vanir Energy, whose corporate office is located in Sacramento, began construction on the solar panels in August.

Martin said the panels are expected to start providing power for both buildings by November.

Martin said the energy produced by the solar panels is expected to cut the energy consumption of the entire school by 1.6 percent.

Sac State spends more than $4 million per year on utility bills alone, according to Sac State’s general budget.

The restrictions on greenhouse gas emissions from AB 32 have prompted an increase in the use of cleaner but more expensive forms of sustainable energy.

AB 32 requires California energy companies to produce 33 percent of their total energy output from renewable energy sources to reduce emissions.

To offset the cost of constructing new renewable energy generators, energy companies have been raising rates to its customers, including Sac State.

Martin said the use of on-site solar power will help to mitigate some of the rising electricity costs, while remaining environmentally friendly.

Martin said the savings from the solar panels are estimated to save more than $64,000 in the first year of use and will save even more when utility rates increase. In addition to saving money on utility bills, the solar panels will also cut down on the university’s carbon footprint.

Martin said the solar panels will reduce Sac State’s carbon footprint by 216 metric tons of carbon dioxide per year.

This reduction offsets the emissions of 38 cars per year or 768 cars by the end of the contract, according to the Environmental Protection Agency’s website.

Environmental Studies assistant professor Christine Flowers said the move to produce solar energy will help lower the demand for unsustainable and unclean power sources such as coal and nuclear plants.

“Anytime you can generate as much of the building’s (electricity) need is a good thing,” Flowers said. “Energy costs are only going to go up.”

Flowers said the use of solar power and other renewable energy sources will help to reduce the rapid climate change influenced by the burning of fossil fuels.

Martin said the construction of solar panels on The Well and library are just the start of Sac State’s plan to power the school with clean, renewable energy.

Parking Structure III, Tahoe Hall and The Union are locations Martin said are being considered for solar panel placement.

Martin said while students may not benefit from the savings directly, students will have the benefit of attending a university that is intent on providing clean, renewable energy for its facilities.

“This is a win-win for everybody,” Martin said. “We get solar power without creating emissions and students get to know they go to a campus that cares.”


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