Environmental Protection

Butte College First in Nation to Generate More Than 100 Percent Renewable Electricity

California's Butte College is the first college in the history of the United States to go 'grid positive,' meaning that it will generate more electricity from its solar arrays than it consumes and will deliver power back to the electric grid.

Butte College, located 75 miles from Sacramento and resting on a 928-acre wildlife refuge, will see significant cost savings from its solar arrays. The college estimates that it will save between $50 million and $75 million over 15 years, even after accounting for project costs and interest, by eliminating its electricity bill, getting paid for excess electricity production, and avoiding future electricity rate increases.  These savings can be used to improve student offerings and increase enrollment.

"Butte College has had a longstanding commitment to sustainability. Achieving grid-positive status marks the culmination of years of effort to build Butte College's supply of solar power and to improve energy efficiency on campus," said Dr. Diana Van Der Ploeg, Butte College president. "Having the support of the board of trustees, faculty, staff, and students was essential to making this achievement possible."

Butte College now operates a total of 25,000 solar panels that will generate over 6.5 million kilowatt hours of electricity per year ā€“ enough to power over 941 average-sized homes, or the equivalent of removing 615 passenger cars from the roadways.

"I've asked community colleges to become more entrepreneurial and seek out new and innovative ways to generate revenue and to cut operating costs," said California Community Colleges Chancellor Jack Scott.  "Butte College dramatically accomplishes both of these goals by becoming grid positive.  Furthermore, this college's solar arrays will train workers for jobs in the green energy field ā€“ an outcome that will help California's economy and recovery."

"Future generations are counting on us to address the profound challenge of global warming, and we know that our future prosperity will hinge on America's ability to be a leader in the clean energy economy," said House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (CA). "Butte College's accomplishments in renewable energy and sustainability help show the way toward building a stronger economy while preserving the planet."

Van Der Ploeg credits the college's transformation to a national leader in sustainability to student engagement both at the college and in the community, infusion of sustainability into the curriculum, workforce development focused on green jobs, LEED certified buildings, sustainable land use management, renewable energy and energy efficiency, and operation of the largest community college student transportation system in California.

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