California Polytechnic University (Cal Poly) is a university in the California State University system and has been ranked the Best in the West 24 consecutive years by U.S. News & World Report. As part of their net zero sustainability plan, the university set out to build a solar farm on land adjacent to the campus.
REC Solar was selected by Cal Poly to build a solar farm comprised of 5.7 MW of trackers on agricultural land. The 18.5-acre solar farm was completed in 2018. It is comprised of more than 16,000 individual solar panels and generates more than 11 million kWh per year — enough to power more than 1,000 homes, or about 25 percent of Cal Poly’s total needs. In addition to the environmental benefits, the energy produced by the solar farm will result in direct savings on Cal Poly’s utility bills totaling about $10 million over 20 years. The solar farm was financed by REC Solar through a power purchase agreement (or PPA), which allows Cal Poly to purchase energy at a lower rate, without paying any upfront costs for the system construction or maintenance.
The solar farm was designed to maximize academic applications for both students and faculty. It will incorporate a solar engineering laboratory, solar technology research supplied by live data about the system, and the Cal Poly’s Animal Science program will use the site to research vegetation management practices for utility scale solar farms while grazing the site with its sheep herd. REC Solar has partnered with the university to provide funds and collaborate on applied research.