Here’s a bit of a surprise: The nation’s largest public university solar power project is happening in a state known for its rain. The Oregon University System has broken ground on what’s said to be the state’s largest solar photovoltaic (PV) power program and the largest solar contract in the nation for a public univeristy system on multiple campuses.
The project, called Solar by Degrees, will eventually include all seven of the state’s campuses. Installations will begin this summer and fall at Oregon Institute of Technology, Oregon State University and Eastern Oregon University. The three campuses will have a total of 27 acres of PV panels that will produce 5 megawatts of power.
The project will use solar resources located right in the state, with solar panels coming from Hillsboro-based SolarWorld and solar inverters from PV Powered of Bend. Oregon Electric of Portland is the lead contractor on the project. The state is working with Renewable Energy Development Corporation (REDCO) of Utah to develop the installations. Under the arrangement, REDCO will build the systems on leased state property and, taking advantage of federal and state incentives, sell the power back to the university system at attractive rates. The state estimates it will save $6.6 million on its utility bills over a 25-year period, at which point the panels will revert to campus ownership.
For Oregon Institute of Technology the addition of solar power is especially noteworthy as it will allow the university to meet all of its heating and electricity needs from renewable power. That’s because the Klamath Falls campus already takes advantage of geothermal resources: All its hot water comes from geothermal water, and it has the first university-based geothermal combined heat and power plant in the world.