UC San Diego moves toward carbon neutral goal with new solar array

University of California San Diego

UCSD breaks ground on new solar installThe University of California San Diego will have more solar power generating capacity than any other higher education facility in the country after it completes its newest solar installation.

The university has several other renewable and clean onsite electricity generation installations, including a 30-megawatt natural-gas-powered cogeneration heat and power system that provides 85 percent of the campus’ electricity needs.

Sullivan Solar Power broke ground on the university’s newest solar PV project on the summer solstice, June 21. The 763-kilowatt installation on the Mayer Hall facility is expected to save the state university more than $2 million over the next 20 years, according to a release from Sullivan, which is based locally in San Diego.

“The newly launched project shows UC San Diego’s commitment to renewable energy, as the university is the most solar powered campus in San Diego County,” said Daniel Sullivan, founder and president of Sullivan Solar Power, “Time and time again, the university is stepping up to be not only a local demonstrative model for clean technology in our community, but also a national leader for campus sustainability.”

The school already has more than 2 megawatts of solar electricity generation and a 300-kilowatt solar water heating system and a 2.8-megawatt fuel cell that turns waste methane gas from a nearby water treatment facility into electricity.

Those innovations combine with a vast array of energy conservation and management programs to make the school stand out as an institution that invests in clean energy.

The school is also home to the Solar Resource Assessment and Forecasting Laboratory, which is doing research to determine the best locations for solar power around the world and on smaller scales. Its research also aims to help utility companies and solar developers better manage the intermittency of solar.

The newest solar installation is expected to take six months to install. It will employ 24 local electricians and four project managers and engineers.

“Our campus is a leader in energy advancements,” said Dave Weil, UC San Diego director of building commissioning and sustainability, “UC San Diego generates more than 90 percent of its electricity with an ultra-clean and efficient natural-gas-fired cogeneration plant, renewable energy fuel cell and solar photovoltaics and we’re making progress toward achieving carbon neutrality by 2025.”