Monday, May 11, 2009

Start-Ups Rise to Push Solar on College Campuses


Universities are on the cutting edge of solar energy research, but they’re surprisingly laggard when it comes to adopting it.

Only nine campuses have installed systems producing more than 1 megawatt of electricity, and even those system are making only a tiny dent in their campus power supplies. The 1.2 MW system at the University of California San Diego, for one, generates less than 4% of campus energy use. Dozens of other campuses have smaller solar projects, but among them, only 27 top 100 kilowatts.

Compare our nation’s universities with Wal-Mart, and the numbers are pitiful. Wal-Mart has 18 large arrays in California alone, and it just announced it will double that number in the next 18 months.

So why are universities so slow to jump on solar?

Certainly they could benefit from the carbon-reduction points they’ll earn under the University and College President’s Climate Commitment, a pledge that 633 institutions are now bound to. Solar is also an outstanding educational vehicle for students, especially those eyeing 21st century green jobs. And we mustn’t forget, PV makes great fodder for glossy recruitment pamphlets.

The answer is perhaps best explained by the handful of NGOs and for-profit consulting firms that have popped up to advance the market for solar in higher ed.

They pare the issue down to this: University decision-making moves at a glacial pace, and speedy private-sector solar firms have plenty of other business they can move on with for-profit velocity. It simply hasn’t been worth it for solar firms to work with campuses – until now.

That untapped market and the lost opportunity for universities are precisely what compelled Jacob Travis, founder of the newly launched Solar College Initiative, to get involved in the solar biz after years in academia.

“There’s a fundamental issue – after a certain point, it just doesn’t remain profitable for solar firms to work with universities because the decision-making and contracting period tends to take forever. By streamlining the evaluation and contracting phases, we hope to create a ‘solar pipeline’, where numerous firms will be jumping at the chance to offer ripe universities the best solar deal they can get. It’s a total win-win.”

This article has been cross-posted from SolveClimate.com. To read the rest of the article, click here.

2 comments:

solar panels said...

I am pretty sure that more and more college campuses will go for solar in the next couple years.

solar panel said...

This should be happening throughout the US. This will mean vast expenses being paid for electricity can be consumed by the solar panels and therefore reduce costs and allow those savings to be re-invested in to our education system.