California's Butte College Becomes First in the Nation to Generate More Than 100% of its Electricity from Renewables

29 Jun, 2011, 15:46 ET from Butte College

Butte College, a Longtime Leader in Sustainability, Marks Historic 'Grid Positive' Achievement

OROVILLE, Calif., June 29, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Butte College in California this week becomes 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 – 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 – 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.

Butte College has earned a number of national awards for sustainability leadership including the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE) 2009 Campus Leadership Award, the 2009 Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Green Power Partnership Award, the 2008 National Wildlife Association Campus Chill-Out Award, and several Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) building certifications from the U.S. Green Building Council, 2010.

Butte is a single campus district located near the geographical center of Butte County, California. It has centers in Chico, the largest city in the district, and Orland in Glenn County. Because of its rural location, the college is unique among California Community Colleges because it operates as a self-contained city. It has its own water system, maintains its own sewage treatment facility, and operates the largest community college transportation system in California. The college implemented its first solar energy project in 2005 and its second in 2008.

In addition to the solar projects the college has developed sustainability related career and technical education programs; infused sustainability into existing curriculum; created a sustainability studies certificate; conducted numerous student-led green events and activities; gained Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Gold Certification on its Arts Building and is awaiting final approval of Gold Certification on Student and Administrative Services, developed and implemented a number of sustainability-related workforce development activities; recycles over 75 percent of its waste stream and operates the largest community college transportation system in California.

Butte College,, provides quality education, services, and workforce training to students who aspire to become productive members of a diverse, sustainable, and global society. We prepare our students for life-long learning through the mastery of basic skills, the achievement of degrees and certificates, and the pursuit of career and transfer pathways. The college has an annual enrollment of 21,000 full- and part-time students.

SOURCE Butte College