Largest U.S. university solar project switched on in California

Five Points Solar

The University of California switched on a 60-megawatt solar energy plant on Thursday that it intends to expand to 80 megawatts by mid-2017, at which point it will become the largest solar purchase by any university in the United States.

The Aug. 18 ribbon-cutting ceremony marked the opening of Five Points Solar Park -- a 271,200-panel solar farm that will supply roughly 14 percent of the University of California system’s electricity demands -- in Fresno County, California, according to a recent news release. The project is a step toward the system’s goal of reaching carbon neutrality by 2025 and will also provide students and staff with valuable research and education opportunities, according to the release.

The project was orchestrated via a 25-year power-purchase agreement with Texas-based developer Centaurus Renewable Energy.

The release stated that nearly a quarter of the power generated by the solar farm will power the University of California at Davis and the rest will be divvied up between the system’s other campuses and medical centers (located in cities such as San Diego, Berkeley, Santa Barbara and Los Angeles).

“As a national leader in sustainability, the University of California is taking on bold, new goals and transforming our approach to procuring and using energy in more sustainable ways,” UC President Janet Napolitano said in the release. “Our partnership with Centaurus Renewable Energy will ensure that UC has a steady supply of cost-effective, climate-neutral electricity.”

The university system has also expanded its onsite solar-power production to a total of 36.5 megawatts in recent years and plans to add an additional 18.3 megawatts by the end of 2017.

Photo Credit: Elena Zhukova