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UC Merced Unveils New Solar Power System

November 10, 2009
Solar Array to Produce 20 percent of Campus' Electricity Supply

MERCED, CA — November 10, 2009 — The University of California, Merced announced today (Nov. 10) the completion of a 1 megawatt solar power system at the campus, marking the university’s inaugural effort to produce clean, renewable energy as the first American research university of the 21st century.

“We are here today to celebrate a remarkable milestone,” said Mary Miller, vice chancellor for administration. “The solar array project exemplifies UC Merced’s founding vision to become an international model for sustainable development and environmental stewardship.”

The system is located on 8.5 acres southeast of the Science & Engineering Building. It consists of 4,900 solar panels that follow the sun’s movement during the day. The system will supply two-thirds of the campus’ electricity on summer days and 20 percent of the campus’ annual electricity needs.

The project was developed through a power purchase agreement with SunPower Corp., a Silicon Valley-based manufacturer of high efficiency solar cells, solar panels and solar systems. SunPower designed, installed and maintains the system. UC Merced owns the renewable energy credits.

The solar array will provide UC Merced with an abundant source of clean, renewable power. According to conversion formulas provided by The Climate Registry, the system is expected to remove more than 45 million pounds of carbon dioxide over the next 30 years. That is equivalent to the emissions displaced from removing more than 3,600 cars from California’s roads.

The system will also save the campus money because it produces power more cheaply than can be purchased from the traditional power grid. The array is expected to save more than $5 million over the next 20 years in electricity costs.

“Every dollar we save on utilities is a dollar that can be used to support our academic programs,” Miller said.

UC Merced’s location in the sunny San Joaquin Valley makes it an ideal area to study and develop solar energy projects and related research. Faculty and student researchers will use data collected from the array to help them explore and create solutions that will benefit California and beyond.

Installation of the solar array is part of UC Merced’s strategy to meet its “Triple Zero Commitment” to save as much energy as possible, generate as much renewable power that is used and offset greenhouse gas emissions by 2020. Those goals are outlined in the campus’ Long Range Development Plan (LRDP) and Climate Action Plan.

For more information about UC Merced research and applications in renewable energy: