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Butte College to Be Grid-Positive College

By the end of spring 2011, Butte College in Northern California will be the more than 100-percent solar powered. Already recognized as a leader in sustainability among community colleges, Butte has just received the go-ahead from its Board of Trustees to install the third phase of an on-site solar power installation. That will make Butte the first grid-positive college in the U.S., meaning they create more electricity on-site than consumed from the electric grid.

In place already is a solar system providing 1.8 megawatts (MW) of solar electricity. Upon completion of Phase 3, another 2.7 MW will be added, bringing the grand total to more than 4.5 MW of clean solar power provided by 25,000 solar panels.

Butte College sits on a 928-acre wildlife refuge near Oroville, CA and is certainly doing its part to preserve the natural heritage. The solar power system will produce 6.4 million kilowatt-hours of electricity annually, enough to power more than 9,200 homes or remove over 6,000 cars from the road.

“Once this solar project is completed, Butte College will provide enough clean renewable energy to cover all of our electricity needs and generate slightly more than we use—which will be a source of additional revenue for the college,” said Butte College President Dr. Diana Van Der Ploeg in a press release.

Der Ploeg added: “Sustainability is at the heart of everything we do. Being the first grid positive community college in the country demonstrates our commitment to the sustainable practices we’re modeling for our students and our communities.”

The 15,000 new solar panels will be dispersed among several of college’s rooftops, some will cover walkways and parking lots, and a remainder will be ground-mounted around campus. Of the $17 million needed to complete the project, $12.65 million is coming from Clean Renewable Energy Bonds (CREBs), low-interest loans that may be used for renewable energy projects. The school will also receive close to $1 million in rebates from the California Solar Initiative, PG&E and Recovery Act funds.

Phase 3 is scheduled for completion by the end of May 2011.

Photo Credit: Wikipedia

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