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Huge solar electric project at CSUEB wins consumers award

  • February 14, 2005

One of the top awards for design, technology and construction by the Western Council of Construction Consumers was won by California State University, East Bay for a solar electric system it installed in 2004.

The 30-year-old nonprofit council is made up of public and private owners from fields including education, refining, telecommunications, aerospace, healthcare and transportation. Its members include the City of Los Angeles, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratories and the J. Paul Getty Trust. Cal State East Bay is one of three recipients of an Exceptional Project Award, that was presented at ceremonies in Los Angeles.

"The judges were especially impressed with the project's safety performance as well as project execution relative to budget and schedule targets," said Andrew Wiktorowicz, the organization's executive director. "Another plus was the innovative use of technology, real estate and rebates to insure rapid project payback."

Collectively, the four rooftops at Cal State East Bay make up one of the largest collections of photovoltaic panels at any facility in Northern California. Last year the project earned a record $3.4 million rebate from Pacific Gas and Electric Company.

The university's solar electric system is estimated to generate 1.45 million kilowatt hours of electricity in a year - enough to serve 255 average homes and meeting 7.5 percent of the university's annual electricity needs. During peak periods such as summer months the system provides 30 percent of the university's energy needs, saving about $200,000 a year in energy costs.

The system provides enough electricity to power 1,000 homes during the daytime.

The project was initiated after Karina Garbesi, a professor in the Department of Geography and Environmental Studies, brought her the idea that new photovoltaic technology made the campus a prime site for this energy installation.

Solar energy will provide the university with operational flexibility.

"Solar energy enabled Cal State East Bay to generate its own power, especially during the summer months when electricity prices are the highest and the grid is most constrained. The system will give the university a hedge against the fluctuating costs of energy and related supplies and will lower annual maintenance costs and increase the life of the buildings.

The project was developed by PowerLight Corporation.

"By investing in on-site solar generation, Cal State East Bay is effectively reducing its purchases of expensive peak electricity and doing its part to address California's ongoing energy challenges," said PowerLight president Dan Shugar. "In addition to generating electricity, PowerLight's solar system provides thermal insulation and protects the roof from weather and UV radiation. These benefits result in decreased heating and cooling energy costs and extended roof life."

Pacific Gas and Electric Company's self-generation incentive program provided the financial incentive, which covers up to half the cost of clean, on-site electric generating systems. The program allows utility customers installing on-site generation to obtain rebates to help offset the costs associated with either solar, wind, fuel cell, micro turbine or internal combustion engine cogeneration systems.

The $3.4 million PG&E rebate for the Cal State East Bay project was the largest such award ever given by the utility company at the time, exceeding the previous top rebate by more than $1 million.

The Cal State East Bay project received one of the nation's top environmental honors when it won a 2004 Green Power Leadership Award, sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Center for Resource Solutions.

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