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California college is first to go 'grid positive'

Dozens of colleges in the Mid-Atlantic and beyond have become community leaders in sustainability, producing alternative energy en masse and scaling back energy consumption dramatically.

American University, for one, says it will be carbon neutral by 2020. The University of Maryland made Princeton Review's Green Honor Roll for raising its recycling rate past 50 percent. Johns Hopkins University has pledged to halve its emissions over 15 years. The list goes on and on.

This release, though, caught my eye. Butte College in Northern California says it has become the first and only "grid positive" college in the nation, producing more clean energy than it uses.

Butte College is poised to become the largest collegiate producer of solar power in the world, generating enough electricity to power 9,200 homes.

Butte_Aerial_09.jpg

(I think the shiny blue-metallic things in this picture are solar panels.)

The final phase of its solar project, to be completed in May, will "provide enough clean renewable energy to cover all of our electricity needs and generate slightly more than we use," said Diana Van Der Ploeg, college president.

There are solar panels mounted on the ground and on rooftops, and more will be placed atop covered parking areas and walkways -- solar power requires some serious square-footage.

Total funding for the project is $17 million, of which $13 million comes in low-interest bonds earmarked for clean energy. Once complete, the solar complex will actually earn the college a modest amount of revenue.

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By Daniel de Vise  |  August 4, 2010; 12:29 PM ET
Categories:  Administration , Community Colleges , Sustainability  | Tags: Sustainability, carbon-neutral colleges, college recycling, college sustainability, green colleges  
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Comments

So has it already happened or is it scheduled to go live in May 2011? That's what I couldn't figure out from reading this.

Posted by: forgetthis | August 5, 2010 12:31 PM | Report abuse

According to the Release link: By May 2011, the college will move to the head of its class—as the only college in the nation that is grid positive—producing more clean energy from sustainable on-site solar power than it uses.

Posted by: k4mdg | August 5, 2010 2:50 PM | Report abuse

What's not said is that this school is in a part of the country where there aren't temperature extremes, meaning, it's much easier to do there. Not representative.

Posted by: A1965bigdog | August 5, 2010 3:51 PM | Report abuse

A1965bigdog - Well, Oroville has an average daily high of 90 F or above for most of the summer. It's not like they just open the windows to stay cool. I'll grant you that it doesn't typically get bitterly cold in the winter.

But more broadly, what's your point? Even if no school, business, or small community anywhere can generate net energy doesn't change the fact that they can generate more than the vast majority of them are doing now. Which is virtually none.

Posted by: Bob-S | August 5, 2010 8:34 PM | Report abuse

http://www.wunderground.com/history/airport/KOVE/2009/8/5/CustomHistory.html?dayend=5&monthend=8&yearend=2010&req_city=NA&req_state=NA&req_statename=NA

A1965bigdog - Well, Oroville has an average daily high of 90 F or above for most of the summer. It's not like they just open the windows to stay cool. I'll grant you that it doesn't typically get bitterly cold in the winter.

But more broadly, what's your point? Even if no school, business, or small community anywhere can generate net energy doesn't change the fact that they can generate more than the vast majority of them are doing now. Which is virtually none.

Posted by: Bob-S | August 5, 2010 8:34 PM
**********************
**********************
You need to take a look at more than just the temperature. Oroville is in Northern CA, where the air comes off of the very cold Pacific Ocean (it comes off of Alaska). As a result, the humidity is low inspite of being near the ocean. Quite frankly, with low humidity, 90 F is quite pleasant with the windows open. Also, the winter temps are very moderate as well.

My point is that the test isn't representative of most cities in the US. It's much easier for this school to produce more energy than it uses due to not having the need for lots of ac in the summer and not having the need for lots of heating in the winter.

A more representative example for all of the US might be say U. of MD, or maybe U. of VA. Not too far north, not too far south, not excessively humid like New Orleans, not dry like Phoenix.

I'm not against solar or anything like that. Quite the opposite. I'm for using solar and wind to displace natural gas fired generators so that the natural gas can be used in flex fuel vehicles to power cars, which will displace imported oil and improve our balance of trade.

Anyway, all I'm saying is that in the geographic location where that school is at it is much easier to have facilities that generate more than they use due to not needing to heavily use ac or heat, and that the example isn't representative. If you could pull this off at say Georgia Tech in Hot Lanta in the summer, or maybe Notre Dame or U. of Michigan in winter, that would be a feat worth cheering about.

Posted by: A1965bigdog | August 5, 2010 11:55 PM | Report abuse

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