UC Merced Achieves Campus Sustainability Goals with SunPower

It’s really great when two business partners have completely aligned goals. We were able to achieve that with SunPower, and we’ve been very happy with the outcome.

– Tom Lollini, Associate Vice Chancellor for Physical Planning, University of California

When the University of California, Merced welcomed its first students in September of 2005, several years already had been spent planning a modern campus that would utilize renewable energy sources. Anticipating an eventual student population of 45,000, campus architects planned to leverage the San Joaquin Valley’s year-round sun to produce solar power. Thanks to rebates made available through the California Solar Initiative, a power purchase agreement and SunPower’s high-efficiency solar technology, UC Merced is on track to realize its long-term sustainability goals.

Aiming for “Triple Net Zero”

UC Merced’s solar system is one part of the university’s mission of achieving zero net energy, zero landfill waste and climate neutrality by 2020. Given Merced’s sunny climate, leveraging solar power was a clear first step on the path to that goal, says John Elliott, UC Merced’s Assistant Director of Energy and Sustainability. “Solar power will be a large part of our renewable energy portfolio, as it will match loads - especially during peak usage – be cost-effective, and be safe and reliable.”

SunPower Makes the Grade

UC Merced put out a request for proposal to a number of solar providers. Only SunPower offered high-efficiency solar panels with SunPower® T20 Solar Trackers, the ability to finance the system through a solar power purchase agreement with Wells Fargo, and the experience necessary to execute a contact that met the University’s requirements.“We needed a partner that was sophisticated enough to handle the complexities of dealing with the University of California,” notes Associate Vice Chancellor for Physical Planning, Design and Construction Tom Lollini. “Also, we wanted to work with a vendor that was financially viable, has staying power, and would be able to make the necessary investments. Since SunPower offered all three, they had the winning proposal.”

A Win for All

The 1-megawatt solar PV system at UC Merced is expected to produce nearly two-thirds of the electricity needed on the campus during the summer months, and 20 percent of the total electrical energy consumed annually. “For us to be able to undertake this project without any upfront capital, save money and have renewable, clean power, it’s a win-win,” Elliott says. “People are really excited about this. It says that we’re not just talking about renewable power; during the most expensive times of the day we’re actually creating it.”

Project Overview

Location:    Merced, CA
Completed:    November 2009
Installation Type:    Ground Tracker
System Size:    1 MW
PV Area:    8.5 acres
Products:    SunPower® T20 Tracker
Financing:    Power Purchase Agreement

Benefits
  • Solar PV system will provide two-thirds of the campus’s electricity on summer afternoons, and 20 percent of its annual electrical needs
  • The Climate Registry predicts the system will remove 45 million pounds of carbon dioxide emissions over the next 30 years;equivalent to removing more than 3,600 cars from CA roads
  • New solar installation has created campus and community excitement, and is establishing the San Joaquin Valley as arenewable energy leader in California