Cal Poly to save millions of dollars with new solar farm

University opens new 18.5-acre facility on campus

Cal Poly to save millions of dollars with new solar farm

SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif. - Under a bright sunny sky, Cal Poly flipped the switch today on a brand new solar farm located on the western edge of its campus.

The 18.5-acre facility is the university's first major energy project since announcing a goal of climate neutrality during 2015-16 academic year.

"This fits right into our goal," said President Jeffrey Armstrong. "We want to be net-zero in 2050. We want to really move beyond the goal that the governor has set because the whole issue of greenhouse gases and climate change are very important."

Along with Armstrong and 24th District Rep. Salud Carbajal, several other university, city and county dignitaries held a ribbon cutting ceremony to mark the event.

The solar farm includes more than 16,000 panels that will produce more than 11 million kWh per year, which is enough energy to power more than 1,000 homes. It's enough energy to supply 25 percent of Cal Poly's total needs annually.

"It's going to save $17 million dollars over 20 years," said Armstrong. "On top of that, since it's a public-private partnership, we have zero up-front costs."

The university teamed up with San Luis Obispo-based REC Solar to build the farm. The company was founded by two Cal Poly graduates, who helped in the design and construction of the facility.

"We applaud Cal Poly's creativity in leveraging the system to inspire research in sustainability for years to come. REC Solar is privileged to be a part of the university's sustainability journey," said REC Solar CEO Matt Walz in a statement.

In addition to the environmental and financial benefits, the solar farm will also be used for academic opportunities for Cal Poly students.

"There's going to be multiple 'Learn By Doing' opportunities for our students, both associated with this facility and all the data that's going to be collected," Armstrong said. "It's really a great parternship."

The site will also be used by Cal Poly Animal Science students, who will be able to access the facility to research vegetation management practices for solar farm projects by grazing sheep on the premises. 

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