Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber was on-hand last week to attend a ground-breaking at the Oregon Institute of Technology’s (OIT’s) new photovoltaic array. It’s one of three planned to be completed by the end of 2011 as the school system attempts to source all of its electricity from renewable energy.
“It’s been a long road to get these panels placed on these campuses,” said said Bob Simonton, Oregon University System (OUS) assistant vice chancellor for capital programs. “It’s taken about six years to figure it out.”
The university system got a pretty good deal for the electricity the systems will produce for the next 20 years. It will pay 4.1 cents per kilowatt hour for power produced at OIT and 4.8 cents per kilowatt hour at the other two, according to Simonton.
That’s less than OUS currently pays for electricity.
“Utility companies couldn’t offer me the same deal,” he said.
In the first, largest phase of the Solar By Degrees program, three campuses will have a total of 5 megawatts of solar installed and operational by the end of 2011, Simonton said. The installations must be completed by Dec. 31 to be eligible for certain federal investment tax credits, like the 1603 Treasury Grant, which hasn’t been renewed for 2012 at this point.
When the Solar By Degrees program is completed, it will be the largest photovoltaic project in Oregon, and the largest by a U.S. public university system, according to OUS.
When OIT’s installation and a secondary geothermal station are completed, it will be powered and heated 100 percent by renewables, according to a press release.
“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,” the release said.
The other two universities included in the first phase are Oregon State University and Eastern Oregon University.
“The first three universities had land available for ground-mount solar [arrays],” Simonton said.
The university system wanted to install solar on some of its buildings in the first phase of the projects, but ran into issues with the bonds that supported construction.
“Some of the buildings selected to put solar on were built with tax-exempt bonds,” Simonton said.
Using the blend of public-private financing, OUS chose to develop the solar projects, would have jeopardized their tax-exempt status.
OUS plans to install solar at seven campuses throughout the state, according to Simonton.
“We’re working on other campuses right now. Trying to figure out which buildings we want to do next,” he said. “It will be throughout the next year. Hopefully we can bundle a bunch together.”
Image courtesy of OIT of the ground-breaking with Gov. Kitzhaber (He's the one looking up).