De Anza College Powers-up Their Parking Lot with SunPower

We're proud to serve as a model for educational institutions statewide and across the nation in achieving energy sustainability and preserving the environment, while reducing energy costs and thereby maximizing resources for students.”

– Martha J. Kanter, Chancellor, Foothill-De Anza Community College


Founded in 1957, the Foothill-De Anza Community College District provides a dynamic learning environment that fosters excellence, opportunity and innovation in meeting the educational needs of its diverse students and community. The College has several campuses located in the heart of Silicon Valley, California. As one of the largest community college districts in the United States, Foothill-De Anza provides credit classes for about 44,000 students per quarter.


The Foothill-De Anza College District has made a firm commitment to renewable power and sustainable building practices. As part of its efforts to lower overall energy consumption and costs, the District sought facility improvements at its two campuses that would meet its power needs, increase energy efficiency, and benefit the environment.


In July 2005, the Foothill-De Anza College District completed the installation of solar electric and energy-efficient co-generation projects at both its campuses. To generate on-site power and improve energy efficiency, the District installed two solar electric parking systems, which provide shade and protection for vehicles while generating electricity from the sun. In addition, eight 60 kW Capstone micro-turbines with heat recovery systems that produce electricity and heat the campus’ pools were installed at both campuses. Other efficiency measures include lighting, air conditioning and energy management systems.

The solar parking system at De Anza College is a 201 kW solar electric tracking carport, which tracks the sun as it generates power. The solar electric parking system at Foothill College is a 100 kW system which supplies power to the campus. The combined 780 kW of electricity generated from the solar and co-generation systems is enough to power 700 homes during the daytime.

Photovoltaic System Description

The solar parking systems generate power for both campuses while providing covered parking for vehicles. This installation uses high efficiency photovoltaic modules to generate maximum output per square foot. The tracker parking system features SunPower® T0 Tracker technology, which follows the path of the sun to maximize energy capture. Both systems use solar cells made of solid-state semiconductors to convert sunlight into direct current (DC) electricity. The DC output from the PV modules is converted to alternating current (AC) electricity by inverters located at the site, and then stepped up to three-phase AC electricity by isolation transformers for connection to the college utility distribution system.

Project Overview

Foothill College     
Location:    Los Altos, CA
System Type:    Carport Structure
Date Completed:    April 2005
System Peak Capacity:    122 kW
Solar Electric Panels:    640
PV surface area:    8,140 square feet

De Anza College     
Location:    Cupertino, CA
System Type:    SunPower® T0 Tracker
Date Completed:    April 2005
System Peak Capacity:    251 kW
Solar Electric Panels:    1,320
PV surface area:    16,790 square feet


As a result of the energy savings and rebates, the District was able to retain capital funds that can now be applied towards education. In addition, the energy efficiency,solar and cogeneration improvements will reduce the college’s electricity purchasesby 46%, and save $800,000 annually in energy costs.

By reducing its purchase of fossil fuel-generated electricity , Foothill-De AnzaCollege District’s photovoltaic and cogeneration systems spare the environment from thousands of tons of harmful emissions, such as nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxide and carbon dioxide, which contribute to smog, acid rain and global warming. Over their 30-year operating life, the systems will displace power that would have been produced by conventional power plants, and reduce emissions of 14 million lbs.of carbon dioxide annually. These emissions reductions are equivalent to planting2,000 acres of trees.