University of California Signs for 80 Megawatts of Solar

The University of California (UC) has made an enormous purchase of solar energy, the most of any higher education institution.

It signed two 25-year power purchase agreements with Frontier Energy that total 80 megawatts (MW) of energy. That beats the very impressive purchase made last month by American University and George Washington University – 52 MW to power half their operations.

To fulfill UC’s contract, Frontier Renewables is building two solar projects, one 60 MW and another 20 MW, that come online in two years.  They will provide 60% of the electricity for many UC campuses: Irvine, San Diego and San Francisco and their medical centers, and Merced and Santa Cruz.

The statewide university system has a goal of being carbon neutral by 2025. This latest contract adds to 11.4 MW already installed and 22.9 MW under construction next year.

1.2 MW of solar at UC San Diego, supplies 15% of its power:

Solar UC Davis

UC Irvine ranked #1 in this years "Cool Schools" list, largely because of its use of renewable energy and efficiency targets.

Won’t Divest From Fossil Fuels, However

At the same time, however, UC’s Task Force on Sustainable Investing recommended against divesting from fossil fuels in its  $91 billion portfolio.

While they made suggestions on investing over $1 billion in the next five years on climate change solutions (ie, expand solar energy use), a majority of the 11-person task force opposes selling its $10 billion in fossil fuel-related stocks and funds. They don’t believe divesting would significantly affect action on climate change, but it could hurt their returns.

"We could have made a narrow divestment decision, but the university is not in the business of taking the easy route," says Jagdeep Singh Bachher, Chief Investment Officer and chair of the task force. "This is a more difficult path but one we feel will be more effective over time."

Countering that, a student member of the task force told Reuters, "We can make as many solar panels as we want but if we continue to extract and combust fossil fuels at this rate, we’re not going to have a habitable world." 

On September 18, the UC Regents’ Committee on Investments will vote on whether to accept the task force’s recommendations. 

So far, 13 universities have decided to divest from coal companies or fossil fuel-companies, including Stanford University


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