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UC to make large purchase of solar energy, partner with Frontier Renewables

Solar panels at UC Merced

The University of California announced that it will make the largest solar energy purchase by any U.S. higher education institution to help power its campuses and medical centers more sustainably.

UC signed two Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs) on Sept. 8 with Frontier Renewables, a power provider focused on solar photovoltaic technology. The agreements secure solar energy for UC for 25 years and will allow the university to supply 206,000 megawatt-hours per year (MWh/year) of solar energy to California’s electrical grid.

Earlier this year, UC became a registered Electric Service Provider, allowing the university’s Wholesale Power Program to supply electric power to UC Irvine and its medical center, UC Merced, UC San Diego and its medical center, UC San Francisco and its medical center, and UC Santa Cruz, under direct access rules.

This new solar supply will allow the university’s campuses served by the Wholesale Power Program to receive energy that is 60 percent sourced from renewable supply. Another portion of the supply will be used by UC Davis, which is served by Western Area Power Administration (WAPA).

The agreements are major components of the University of California’s sustainability initiative. Announced by UC President Janet Napolitano in November 2013, the initiative’s goal is to make UC the first research university to achieve carbon neutrality by 2025, in part by re-examining the energy sources powering UC’s 10 campuses and five medical centers.

“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,” Napolitano said. “Our partnership with Frontier Renewables will ensure that UC has a steady supply of cost-effective, climate-neutral electricity.”

The projects will use two solar fields in Fresno County, with a combined capacity of 80 megawatts (MW). Construction on the solar fields—which have undergone a full environmental review and been approved by Fresno County—is expected to end in late 2016, and the projects are scheduled to come online by the end of 2016.

“By investing in the development of renewable energy sources like these, UC is doing its part to increase the supply of green energy available for use across California,” Napolitano said.

The project also allows Frontier Renewables to consider education partnerships with UC researchers and students, such as research access to solar fields, the creation of a field station on the project site, internships, technology testing and curriculum development.

The agreements were approved by the university’s wholesale governing board, which oversees wholesale power-related policies and actions. The board was formed in December 2013 and consists of one representative from each of the UC locations participating in the Wholesale Power Program.

In addition to systemwide efforts to achieve carbon neutrality, each UC campus is working toward its own sustainability goals. Across the university’s 10 campuses, 11.4 MW of solar photovoltaic (PV) technology has been installed, with an additional 22.9 MW of solar PV planned or in construction within the upcoming year.


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