These days, going green pays off in more ways than one.

Solar panels win award

These days, going green pays off in more ways than one.

For Fresno State, it pays off in an estimated $13 million saved on energy costs over the next 30 years. But it also means some special recognition.

Fresno State was recently given a 2008 state Energy Efficiency Partnership Best Practices Award for the solar photovoltaic and shaded parking project installed on the southeast side of the campus in Lot V last fall.

All of the campuses of the California State University system were considered as potential recipients of the award, as were those of the University of California and the California Community College system – 152 campuses in all.

While Fresno State was the only college to win the award in the Renewables/Innovative Energy Generation and Procurement category, other honors were given as well. San Diego State University and UC Irvine were selected in the area of Water Efficiency/Site Water Quality. CSU Channel Islands and UC Berkeley won for Lighting Design/Retrofit. Last year, Fresno State received an honorable mention in the category of Monitoring-based Commissioning for the Science II building.

Fresno State’s solar parking installation was made possible by a partnership between Chevron Energy Solutions and MMA Renewable Ventures, a company that owns and operates more than 24.8 megawatts of power across the United States. The two companies also worked together on a similar project on the East Los Angeles College campus late last year.

“Cal State Fresno was very much on the leading edge of their interest in doing a project like this where you would take land that is being utilized specifically for parking and to put a large scale solar project on it,” said James C. Davis, president of Chevron Energy Solutions, at the opening ceremony of the parking lot in November 2007.

With 3,872 photovoltaic panels covering more than 700 parking stalls, the 1.1 megawatt system meets approximately 20 percent of Fresno State’s energy demand. This equates to 1.5 million kilowatt hours of power annually. The 10 solar structures are also expected to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 950 metric tons every year. The silicon panels being used ensure increased longevity compared to other materials.

Currently, Fresno State purchases the energy produced by the solar panels from MMA at the price of 16 cents per kilowatt hour, which is 7 cents less than standard energy from PG&E.

According to Dick Smith, director of Utilities Management at Fresno State, the university could eventually buy the system and get the power for free, thereby saving on energy costs in the long run. He said they were setting on 12 years to make the exchange.

“It’s money we could spend on other things besides utilities,” Smith said. “We could spend it on students instead of having to raise fees.”

The solar parking project was also recognized by the National Wildlife Federation in a campus ecology report last month. Fresno State was ranked by the federation as one of the top campuses for leading the way to a sustainable future by finding solutions to global warming.

At the Lot V dedication in November, President John D. Welty said the parking lot is “just one of the university’s ‘green campus’ initiatives.”

Fresno State is also developing a comprehensive campus master plan that will include sustainability and environment-friendly initiatives for campus expansion. The university also has a new adminitstrative division that will monitor sustainability and develop “green campus” programs.