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PCC plans for largest ground-mounted solar array in Portland area
Photos and Story by Gina Whitehill-Baziuk
The project is to be funded by dollars from the 2008 bond measure and is expected to produce 500,000 kilowatt hours of electricity in its first year of operation – enough to fulfill the electrical needs of 40 average sized homes per year – and nearly 10 million kilowatt hours during the next 20 years.
The 500-kilowatt array is a partnership between PCC and Oregon-based public and private entities, including The Energy Trust of Oregon, SolarCity, SolarWorld and the Oregon Department of Energy. The two-acre structure will create nearly 40 temporary jobs, be constructed with solar panels produced by SolarWorld in Hillsboro and installed by local construction workers from SolarCity. The array will be operational this spring.
“This partnership between these private and public players will provide a valuable ‘pay back’ to the community for years to come,” said PCC District President Preston Pulliams. “In addition, this is one of several sustainability initiatives that PCC has undertaken to not only help off-set energy use and costs, but to help move forward the thinking and development of green technologies and green jobs.”
The system will provide 60 percent of the energy needs of Building 9, a 72,000 square-foot structure that houses student and administrative services and the Rock Creek Campus library. The electricity produced will ensure the college’s access to low cost energy over the next twenty years. The array will be owned, operated and maintained by SolarCity. The college will have the option to purchase it after 20 years.
PCC is required to spend 1.5 percent of the value of applicable capital projects on solar energy initiatives. To best meet the 1.5 percent requirement, PCC proposed and the Oregon Department of Energy agreed to consolidate several planned projects throughout the district into this solar array. Working closely together, the two maximized the cost effectiveness and output of the system. PCC also partnered with The Energy Trust of Oregon, an independent nonprofit organization dedicated to facilitating energy saving and generating renewable energy.
“PCC has been a great partner,” said Kip Barrett, project development manager at SolarCity. “The school has been actively involved with all aspects of their project; from site selection to integrating the system into curriculum for students. The project brings a new, educational tool to the PCC campus, and generates long-term energy savings that will benefit the school, its faculty and students for years to come.”
The solar array fits PCC’s Climate Action Plan, which pledges to reduce carbon emissions by 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050. To accomplish this the college will make everything from building operations and transportation services, to credit programs and community outreach more sustainable. And that includes using the bond program to help meet these objectives.
“The bond program is committed to being good stewards of the public’s dollars now and in the future,” said Linda Degman, associate director for the Bond Program. “It is for this reason that it is seeking to incorporate sustainable, energy efficient building practices as it creates new and renovates older educational facilities across the district.”
The array will enhance existing PCC academic programs focused on green jobs and green innovations. Students in these programs will be able to track in real time the energy production of the array and the benefits of harnessing a renewable resource.
“The solar array is the trifecta of collaboration for Rock Creek,” said Rock Creek Campus President David Rule. “The array is a highly visible product that connects students who are interested in physics, science, math, quality control and land use. PCC and SolarWorld have enjoyed a long-standing relationship with Rock Creek faculty providing work-force development assistance. And it is tangible evidence of our commitment to sustainability. We are very pleased to have this state-of-the-art technology at Rock Creek.”
About Portland Community College:
Celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, PCC is the largest post-secondary institution in Oregon, serving approximately 92,537 full- and part-time students. Since it was founded, PCC has educated more than 1.3 million people. The college offers two-year degrees, one-year certificate programs, short-term training, alternative education, pre-college courses and life-long learning. The PCC district has three comprehensive campuses, five workforce training and education centers, and 200 community locations in the Portland metropolitan area.
About the Bond Program:
The PCC Bond Program has completed several green buildings, including the Willow Creek Center in Hillsboro (LEED Platinum) and the Downtown Center (LEED Gold), which meets the highest standards for sustainability and energy efficiency for a historical renovation. In addition, the recently completed Newberg Center will generate the same amount of energy it expends. When applicable, the bond program strives for a minimum LEED Silver certification. LEED refers to the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Green Building Rating System, the nationally recognized benchmark for environmentally friendly construction.
SolarCity, with local offices in Portland, is a national leader in solar power design, financing, installation, monitoring and energy efficiency services.