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Solar Project to Make Butte College First Grid Positive School in the U.S.

Butte College is set to become the first grid positive college in the U.S. with the recent approval to complete phase III of its solar project, which will produce more electricity than it needs to meet 100 percent of the Northern California’s school’s electricity requirements. The college will generate more than 6.381 million kW hours per year.

The college recently received approval from its Board of Trustees to complete its Phase III solar project, which adds approximately 15,000 solar photovoltaic panels or 2.7 megawatts (MW) DC to its current 1.85 MW or 10,000 solar panels. The college says this will make it the largest solar producing college in the world.

The first component of the Phase 3 solar project includes the construction of 1,639 solar panels that will create covered parking spaces at the Butte College Chico Center and will generate 450 kW DC. The installation of the 13 new solar arrays has started at the Chico Center campus and will end at the main campus. This project is scheduled to be completed by May 2011.

The total funding for the project is $17 million: $12.65 million through low-interest loans from the federal Clean Renewable Energy Bonds, and the remainder, up to $4.35 million, funded by college.

When all of the college’s solar projects are combined, Butte College will reduce more than 6.9 million pounds of carbon dioxide (CO2), 27,000 pounds of sulfur dioxide (SO2) and 20,000 pounds of nitrogen oxide (NOX) per year.

Last year, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recognized Butte College for its renewable energy generation.

According to the College Sustainability Report Card, released in July, nearly half of the schools surveyed produce renewable energy on campus. Facilities for producing solar, wind, bio, or geothermal energy are in operation at 45 percent of the schools.

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