Solar Array Lights Up Redmond Campus
By Mary Ann Asson-Batres, Ph.D., COCC Grants Coordinator
In late October, COCC turned on one of the largest photovoltaic system arrays in the state on its Redmond campus. Sunlight Solar Energy of Bend assigned IGS Solar of Ohio to design, install and maintain the 504KW solar array that is located on 50,000 square feet of vacant land on the Redmond campus, across from Roberts Field at the Redmond Airport on Airport Way. The array is composed of nine rows of solar panel modules attached to a metal racking system, with an overall size that is twice that of the installation at Central Electric Co-op in Bend.
The project exemplifies COCC's commitment to renewal energy generation technologies, innovation and community partnerships. The installation will do more than provide energy, however; it will also support the advanced energy systems and manufacturing programs that are in place at the Redmond campus. Science faculty, such as Dr. Bruce Emerson, are already incorporating technical training in the physics and mechanics of solar power in their lesson plans. Having the new system online will allow students to collect information in real time for analysis and predictive modeling exercises. Tours for K-12 students and the public will also be available.
COCC has signed a 20-year agreement with IGS Solar to finance 70% of the 2.1 million dollar project. IGS Solar will sell power back to COCC at a discounted rate because of the federal and state tax incentives that are available for servicing tax-exempt entities. In real terms, this means that solar-generated electricity will be sold back to COCC at 50% of Pacific Powers usual electricity rates. It is estimated that the solar array will provide 90% of the Redmond campus energy needs, which will reduce College operating costs, a benefit that translates into keeping tuition costs down for students.
Photo: U.S. Senator Ron Wyden and COCC President Shirley Metcalf help turn on the power at the launch of the solar array on the COCC Redmond Campus.
Thirty percent of the project cost will come from grants awarded to COCC by Pacific Power ($320,000) and the Energy Trust of Oregon ($200,000). This infusion of money is a second substantial benefit since it significantly reduces COCC's remaining financial obligation to IGS Solar and puts the College in a good position to take advantage of an agreed upon option to purchase the system after seven years of operation. The system is estimated to have a longevity of 35-40 years (possibly more since there is no data to show how long the system will be operational). Obtaining the extramural funds from Pacific Power and Energy Trust of Oregon makes this early buy-back financially possible. Owning the system outright will mean that COCC will save most of the costs for electrical power at the Redmond campus, while also being able to generate revenue from selling unused solar-generated electricity back to Pacific Power. Leveraging the grant money with the negotiated agreement with IGS Solar is an excellent example of how external grants are enhancing COCC's revenue streams and benefiting students by keeping tuition rates down.