Solar Power To Light Up Oregon Universities

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.

solar power at oregon universities

image via Shutterstock

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.

Kristy Hessman is a writer and native Oregonian who currently resides in California. Before starting her own company, she worked as a reporter covering business and politics for daily newspapers and The Associated Press.

1 Comment

  • Reply September 5, 2011


    Solar with Geothermal energy is the best return on investment period!u00a0 Why?u00a0 Geothermal reduces the home or business energy demand by about 50% and so halves the number of solar panels needed.u00a0 This then reduces the overall investment by around 35%.u00a0 The net result is the same a net zero home or business simply using less renewable energy!

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