(Oroville, CA)—Butte College in California is the first college in the history of the United States to go 'grid positive,' meaning that the college has the capacity to generate enough electricity from its solar arrays to more than offset its electricity cost.
"Butte College has had a longstanding commitment to sustainability and achieving grid-positive status marks the culmination of years of effort to build Butte College's supply of solar power and to improve energy efficiency on campus," said Dr. Kimberly Perry, Butte College president. "Having the support of the board of trustees, faculty, staff, and students was essential to making this achievement possible."
A single campus district resting on a 928 acre wildlife refuge, the college has centers in Chico, the largest city in the district, and Orland in Glenn County. It is one of the largest community colleges in the state and, due to its rural location, the college is unique among other Community Colleges because it operates as a self-contained city. The college has its own water system; maintains its own sewage treatment facility; recycles 76 percent of its waste; and, operates the largest community college transportation system in California.
Butte College operates 25,000 solar panels that generate 4.55 megawatts DC or over 6.5 million kilowatt hours of electricity per year – enough to power over 941 average-sized homes. The total cost of all solar projects was $33.8 million less the $6.5 million in rebates for a total net cost of $27.3 million.
Due to its large solar installations, the college estimates that it will save up to $100 million over 30 years. These savings can be used to improve student offerings and increase enrollment.
The college embarked on its first solar project in 2005, with arrays that produced about 25 percent of its energy. When the college's second solar project was completed, it generated approximately 43 percent of its electricity requirements. With the help of a local bond measure, the college has nearly doubled in size, which added new buildings on campus, and additional power requirements. The college installed its third solar project in 2011, which was designed to generate 102 percent of the college's electricity usage.
Solar panels are installed on rooftops, mounted on the ground, and create covered parking areas and walkways with 22,572 solar panels located at the main campus and 2,428 solar panels covering parking areas at its Chico Center.
Perry credits the college's transformation to a national leader in sustainability to student engagement both at the college and in the community; infusion of sustainability into the curriculum; workforce development focused on green jobs; LEED certified buildings; sustainable land use management; renewable energy; and, energy efficiency, and operation of the largest community college student transportation system in California.
Butte College has earned a number of national awards for sustainability leadership including the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE) 2009 Campus Leadership Award, the 2009 Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Green Power Partnership Award, the 2008 National Wildlife Association Campus Chill-Out Award, and several Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) building certifications from the U.S. Green Building Council, 2010.
Media Contact: Lisa DeLaby
Butte College Public Information Office