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California community college commitment

Photonics Spectra
Sep 2009
Anne L. Fischer, Senior Editor,

Butte College of Oroville, Calif., is on a sustainability mission. One goal is to be grid-positive by 2012, and another is to be carbon-neutral by 2015. Well on its way toward achieving those goals, the college recently installed on a campus parking garage more than 2000 solar modules that will produce 545,400 kWh each year.

Mike Miller, director of facilities, predicts that the campus will produce nearly all of the electricity it needs by 2012. In fact, it’s already producing nearly 50 percent of its electricity from solar.

In California, Butte College of Oroville has taken giant steps toward grid independence while also teaching solar installation and other green skills.

Besides generating energy, the campus has been saving energy by installing LED lighting and occupancy sensors, and it has taken steps toward water conservation. According to Miller, “The metrics are interesting” because even though recent building construction has added about 50 percent more square footage, the college has managed to decrease energy use and cost by 30 percent.

Teaching the talk

At Butte, it’s not just about practicing sustainability; it’s about teaching it. The school offers a green building construction program and various sustainability degrees, and it is involved with a program that retrains construction workers in solar installation. Miller said that the facilities department, although it is not integrated into the official curriculum, is involved with student orientation, showing students the solar photovoltaics and other sustainable initiatives on campus right from day one. Four kiosks demonstrate energy production on a screen. Miller said these work really well, “and are so sensitive that if a cloud goes over, you see a drop in production.” In August, the school hosted its third annual conference focusing on institutional sustainability and energy projects for colleges, and it offered group tours of its solar setup. So at Butte, sustainability teaching extends far beyond the campus community.

Anne L. Fischercarbon dioxidecarbon neutralConsumerenergyFischerGreenLightLED lightinglight sourcesSensors & Detectorssolar modulessolar trainingsustainabilityLEDs

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