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University System Launches State’s Largest Solar Project, Governor Kitzhaber Breaks Ground at Oregon Tech

Aug 18, 2011
Today the Oregon University System (OUS) was joined by Governor John Kitzhaber to break ground on what will be the state’s largest solar photovoltaic power program, and the largest solar contract in the nation for a public university system on multiple campuses.

August 18, 2011, KLAMATH FALLS, OR. – Today the Oregon University System (OUS) was joined by Governor John Kitzhaber to break ground on what will be the state’s largest solar photovoltaic power program, and the largest solar contract in the nation for a public university system on multiple campuses. Eventually to include solar arrays on all seven OUS campuses, the project – called Solar By Degrees – will begin installation of a total of 27 acres of solar panels generating almost five megawatts of power at Oregon Institute of Technology, Oregon State University, and Eastern Oregon University beginning with staged installation this summer and fall.

An “all-Oregon” project, Solar By Degrees will utilize solar panels from Hillsboro-based SolarWorld, solar inverters from PV Powered of Bend, will use Oregon Electric of Portland as the lead contractor for the project, and will work with Oregon contractors to complete installation and related work at OIT in Klamath Falls, OSU in Corvallis, and EOU in La Grande.

“This project highlights Oregon’s leadership in clean energy – and the potential for renewable and energy efficiency to really drive our state’s economy,” said Governor Kitzhaber. “An economy of innovation is within our reach – one that leads the way in advanced manufacturing and designing projects that use less energy, rewards efficiency rather than excess, and values the local, with Oregon companies supplying Oregon companies.”

Renewable Energy Development Corporation (REDCO), a Utah-based renewable energy development firm, will provide solar power to each OUS campus in two phases. REDCO’s team includes investors willing to utilize the state and federal tax incentives, allowing the power purchase rate to be at or below the current electrical utility rates for the campuses. The OUS estimates savings of $6.6 million dollars in utility rates over a 25-year period, at which point the panels revert to campus ownership.

Bob Simonton, OUS assistant vice chancellor for capital programs, said, “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. All of our campuses have been involved in reducing our carbon footprint for many years, including our commitment to green building, purchase of clean energy credits, major campus-wide recycling, and support for mass transit usage for our students and community.”

OIT will have a unique configuration utilizing both solar and their current geothermal power to generate 100 percent of their electricity and heating needs. Their Klamath Falls campus is currently the only university in the world that is completely heated by geothermal water, and it has the first university-based geothermal combined heat and power plant in the world. Oregon Institute of Technology president Chris Maples said, “Combining solar power with our current geothermal heat and power generation will continue to strengthen Oregon Tech’s leadership in renewable energy engineering. And when our larger geothermal power plant comes online in 2012, Oregon Tech will achieve energy independence using entirely renewable resources. The solar project will provide a wonderful undergraduate-teaching experience that will augment the nation’s first renewable energy engineering degree, which was established at Oregon Tech in 2005.”

Solar by Degrees is one of five renewable energy demonstration projects OUS has developed that include geothermal, wave, bio-fuel, and/or wind that can best leverage each institution’s unique research talents, Oregon’s natural resources, the state’s clean energy goals, and available funding opportunities. Brandon Trelstad, OSU sustainability coordinator, said, “Combined with our purchase of renewable energy certificates, the installation of large solar electric systems on the campus demonstrates our commitment to reducing OSU’s environmental impact and moving Oregon State toward our goal of climate neutrality by 2025. We’re proud to be part of this project, which aligns with our efforts to help the state be a leader in clean energy development and use.” OSU’s recent purchase of renewable energy certificates makes it the second largest university purchaser of green power in the U.S.

Oregon was recently ranked number two in the U.S. for green jobs by a 2011 Brookings Institution study, with 3.4 percent of employment in “clean jobs.” OUS can further extend its role as the training ground for the state’s current and future green workforce through the Solar By Degrees project, providing on-campus engagement in research, curricula, and hands-on involvement in the solar energy arrays on the seven campuses.

“We’re excited about the potential for hands-on research and study the solar array will provide for our students and faculty,” said EOU president Bob Davies. “This is just one more unique aspect of what EOU can offer to Oregon students to enrich their learning opportunities and prepare them for jobs, today and tomorrow, and initiate new ways of doing business.”

REDCO will offer Renewable Energy internships and assist in developing curricula related to elements of the project at each campus during the initial five years of the project, affording students with the opportunity to gain highly relevant experience within the alternative/clean energy industry.


About Oregon Tech

Founded in Klamath Falls in 1947, Oregon Institute of Technology is one of seven institutions in the Oregon University System, and the only public institute of technology in the Pacific Northwest. Oregon Tech provides degree programs in engineering and health technologies, management, communications and applied sciences that prepare students to be effective participants in their professional, public and international communities through hands-on learning. Oregon Tech’s main campus is in Klamath Falls; other sites are located in Portland, Salem, La Grande and Seattle. Visit www.oit.edu to learn more about Oregon Institute of Technology.

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