Universities Collaborate To Build Oregon’s Largest Solar Project

Seven Oregon universities have combined to break ground on a massive solar photovoltaic project which will generate clean energy for multiple campuses.

The Oregon University System (OUS) says the “Solar By Degrees” project will generate five megawatts (MW) of power per year at staged installations of solar panels across 27-acres of land on selected sites at the Oregon Institute of Technology, Oregon State University, and Eastern Oregon University will continue over coming months.

When complete, it will be the state’s biggest solar PV project, and America’s largest solar contract on public university land.

Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber, whose state was ranked number two in the USA for green jobs for 2011according to the Brookings Institute, says the project further illustrates Oregon’s dominance of the national renewable energy sector.       

“This project highlights Oregon’s leadership in clean energy – and the potential for renewable and energy efficiency to really drive our state’s economy,” he said.

The local economy will certainly benefit. Tagging the project “all Oregon,” the OUS says it will source all its solar panels from local suppliers and use local solar contractors for installation and electrical work. However, a Utah-based renewable energy development company, REDCO, will be responsible for handling financial arrangements and facilitating purchase of energy agreements for the campuses.

The OUS says each campus will see reductions in their electricity bills, totalling an estimated $6.6 million in savings over 25 years. But more important than money, according to Bob Simonton, OUS assistant vice chancellor for capital programs, is the savings in carbon emissions Solar By Degrees will guarantee the Oregon student body.

“Higher education has a distinctive role to play in helping the state transition to more sustainable energy sources, while using this as a vehicle for advancing energy research, engaging and training students in new technologies, and overall being a change agent and model for sustainable practices.”