Napa Valley College Goes Solar wtih SunPower

We’ve embraced solar power to contribute to California’s overall efforts to achieve sustainability and energy independence. Solar is a cost-effective, reliable, non-polluting energy solution that will reduce our electricity costs and contribute to the region’s overall environmental health.

– Dr. Christopher McCarthy, President, Napa Valley College


Situated in the heart of the world famous Napa Valley wine–producing region, Napa Valley College’s tree-lined campus is a mere 50 miles northeast of San Francisco. Napa Valley College has served over a quarter of a million Californians in programs leading to university transfer, employment, and life long learning. As the “open door” to higher education in Napa County, the college is deeply connected to the community and to the goals of Napa’s citizens.


Napa Valley College is committed to protecting and improving the environment in the Napa community. The college was committed to utilizing state-of-the-art technologies that lower costs, enhance operations and help achieve their sustainability goals. The institution was undergoing an ambitious capital facilities improvement project, which was supported by the community through the passage of a bond. Solar energy was evaluated as part of the project.


Napa Valley College chose to incorporate solar power as a key component of its energy portfolio to help meet the college’s electricity needs, lower energy costs and help the institution meet its sustainability goals.

In February 2006, Napa Valley College installed 1.2 MW solar tracking system as part of the college’s facilities improvement project. Sited on a field near the Napa River, the SunPower® T0 Tracker solar tracking system is mounted on pedestals and raised to leverage an untapped asset—a floodplain that is otherwise unusable.

Covering 150,000 square feet, the power array supplies 40% of Napa Valley College campus electricity load. The 1.2 MW solar generation system maximizes the sun’s available energy by capturing 20% more daylight than fixed arrays, and generates enough energy during the daytime to power 1,200 homes.

Photovoltaic System Description

Napa Valley College’s photovoltaic system can produce 1,158 kW under peak sunlight conditions. The system is made up of 5,565 solar panels and arranged into multiple rows, that rotate on a single axis to track the motion of the sun. This tracking system allows the solar array to produce up to 20% more energy than a stationary solar array of the same size.

Covering 150,000 square feet, SunPower® T0 Tracker’s sun tracking system supplies 40% percent of Napa Valley College’s electricity load. The 1.2 MW solar power array maximizes the sun’s available energy by capturing 20% more daylight than fixed arrays, as the tracker follows the sun from early morning to late afternoon.The photovoltaic modules comprising the system contain solid-state semiconductors that convert sunlight directly into direct current (DC) electricity. The DC output from the photovoltaic modules is then converted into usable electricity (AC) by inverters and connected into the campus utility system.

Project Overview

Location:    Napa, CA
Date Completed:    February 2006
System Type:    SunPower® T0 Tracker
System Peak Capacity:    1,158 kW
PV Surface Area:    150,000 square feet
Solar Electric Panels:    5,565


By adopting clean, renewable power, Napa Valley College is helping Californiameet its clean energy goals. The school’s solar electric system will generate powerfrom the sun and feed excess power back to the utility grid. Combining solar powerand energy efficiency allows for growth of the campus facilities with little or no netincrease demand from the utility grid.

The solar electric system installed at Napa Valley College spares the environmentfrom thousands of tons of harmful emisisions, such as nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxideand carbon dioxide, which are major contributors to smog, acid rain, and globalwarming. Over the 30-year lifetime of the photovoltaic system, the solar generatedelectricity will reduce emissions of carbon dioxide by almost 18,000 tons. Theseemissions reductions are equivalent to planting 5,200 acres of trees, removingalmost 3,700 cars or not driving 46 million miles on California’s roadways.