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UC Irvine boosts on-site solar power production fourfold

UC Irvine is quadrupling the amount of green power it generates on-site with the addition of solar photovoltaic canopies on three campus parking structure roofs.

Construction has already begun on the Social Science Parking Structure on Campus Drive. It will be followed by installations on the Student Center Parking Structure on Pereira Drive and the Mesa Parking Structure on Mesa Road. When the work is completed early next year, more than 11,700 newly placed solar panels will generate up to 3.2 megawatts of power, the amount needed to meet the electrical needs of 1,800 homes.

“We are pleased to be adding more renewable resources to our campus energy infrastructure in support of the University of California’s goal of carbon neutrality by 2025,” said Wendell Brase, UCI vice chancellor for administrative and business services and co-chair of UC President Janet Napolitano’s Global Climate Leadership Council.

UCI is installing the solar PV systems under a 25-year power purchase agreement with a subsidiary of NextEra Energy Resources LLC. Under the terms of the agreement, the subsidiary will own and maintain the solar installations and sell electricity to the campus at a price below what UCI would expect to pay a utility.

“The entire University of California system has accelerated efforts to use renewable energy, and that’s a vision we stand behind,” said Andrew Beebe, vice president of distributed generation at NextEra Energy Resources. “As a clean energy leader, we are proud to be working with UC Irvine to bring emission-free energy to the campus.”

The panels are manufactured by SolarWorld Americas Inc., based in Hillsboro, Ore. They employ a new technology that utilizes glass vs. traditional photovoltaic backing, which makes them translucent, longer-lasting and more efficient. The solar canopies will provide shade for vehicles parked on the upper deck of each parking structure but will not be so dark that additional lighting will be required.

The project is expected to reduce campus carbon emissions by 1,500 metric tons per year, about the same as taking 320 cars off the road.

The UCI campus currently has three on-site solar installations that supply slightly more than 1 megawatt of power: a 109-kilowatt, ground-mounted concentrated photovoltaic array near the Anteater Recreation Center; a 48-kilowatt photovoltaic array atop the Anteater Parking Structure; and rooftop arrays on a dozen campus buildings that collectively produce 895 kilowatts of energy.