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Sep 09, 2014 03:21 AM EDT

University of California System Makes Largest Solar Energy Purchase in US

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The University of California system, to help power its campuses, has made one of the largest solar energy acquisitions in the country by any higher education institution.

The two Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs) signed with Frontier Renewables will provide solar energy to UC for 25 years. At the same time, the University will supply 206,000 megawatt-hours per year (MWh/year) of solar energy to California's electrical grid.

Since becoming a registered Electric Service Provider, the University's Wholesale Power Program supplies electric power to five of the state's 10 campuses - UC Irvine and its medical center, UC Merced, UC San Diego and its medical center, UC San Francisco and its medical center, and UC Santa Cruz.

The new solar deal will provide energy - 60 percent generated from renewable supply - to campuses part of the Wholesale Power Program. The 25-year deal with San Mateo-based Frontier Renewables will supply 80 megawatts in solar power, or 200,000 megawatt-hours annually.

The partnership is part of the University of California's sustainability initiative by UC President Janet Napolitano in November 2013.

The initiative's aim is to make UC the first research university to attain carbon neutrality by 2025. Across the university's 10 campuses, 11.4 MW of solar photovoltaic (PV) technology has been installed, with an additional 22.9 MW of solar PV planned for the upcoming year.

"As a national leader in sustainability, the University of California is taking on bold, new goals and transforming our approach to procuring and using energy in more sustainable ways," said Napolitano in a statement. "Our partnership with Frontier Renewables will ensure that UC has a steady supply of cost-effective, climate-neutral electricity."

Two solar fields in Fresno County, with a combined capacity of 80 megawatts (MW), will be part of the PPAs projects. The fields are expected to be in operation by the end of 2016.

"By investing in the development of renewable energy sources like these, UC is doing its part to increase the supply of green energy available for use across California," Napolitano said.

Besides supply of solar energy, the agreements will also pave the way for educational opportunities like research access to solar fields, the creation of a field station on the project site, internships, technology testing and curriculum development.

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