The Foothill-De Anza Community College District recently received more than $1.1 million from PG&E for energy savings generated by the installation of photovoltaic (PV) solar panels in three parking lots at Foothill College in Los Altos Hills. The college district will have received a total rebate of more than $1.75 million at the conclusion of the five-year program in Fall 2016. The Savings by Design Program is administered by California utilities and encourages high-performance, non-residential building design and construction.
PVs are arrays of cells containing a solar photovoltaic material that converts solar radiation into direct current electricity. According to PG&E, the Foothill College PV project has achieved an energy savings of 4,019,452 kilowatts, which equates to 373.8 metric tons of avoided carbon dioxide—the equivalent of one year of powering 188 homes or removing 79 cars from the road.
“Foothill College is committed to energy efficiency for three reasons: Sustainability is one of our core values; our new energy curriculum utilizes the campus as a living laboratory; and renewable energy sources make sense—and cents!” said Foothill College President Judy C. Miner, Ed.D. “We are particularly excited that the rebate will help fund the transformation of our library into a state-of-the-art learning resource center.”
The installation of Foothill’s photovoltaic panels was completed in 2011. A design-build project with Chevron Energy, the panels include multiple PV arrays that generate 1.4 million kilowatt-hours each year and help the college district's energy costs. Located in three campus parking lots (1H, 2 and 3), the large panels also double as shade structures.
“PG&E has been pleased to support this photovoltaic installation and operation which is a significant achievement,” said Frank Arroyo, PG&E energy solutions and service account executive. “PG&E has also supported and will continue to support Foothill College and the district’s comprehensive approach to managing energy. This integrated approach has been inspirational. It includes implementation of energy conservation, energy efficiency enhancements and demand-response program participation, along with multiple types of self-generation such as the photovoltaic project.”
The PV project was funded with proceeds from Measure C, a $490.8 million bond approved in 2006 by voters residing in the Foothill-De Anza Community College District service area. By reducing the district’s electricity costs, the PV project frees up money that can be redirected to other needs, such as instruction.
In addition to saving energy, the photovoltaic panels play an important role in the Foothill College Science & Learning Institute (SLI), which promotes an innovative instructional model based on educational research and best practices for the successful teaching and learning of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) at all levels.
In fact, Foothill’s new 25-unit Sustainability & Energy Program features a five-unit course that introduces technical students and working professionals to the field of photovoltaic technology. The course, ENGR 82: Photovoltaic & Solar Cell Design, transfers to the CSU system, and has been designed by faculty experts with recommendations and support from leaders in the energy engineering industry. Students study key research and policy areas for clean and sustainable energy solutions. Using the photovoltaic panels, they also analyze the real-time energy intake and output data as an instructional exercise in applied STEM learning. The class provides a comprehensive conceptual and practical framework, and is excellent preparation for advanced study and careers in solar technology.
In addition to the ENGR 82 class, Foothill’s Sustainability & Energy Program includes four additional courses: ENGR 39: Energy, Society & The Environment; ENGR 40: Introduction to Clean Energy Technology; ENGR 83: Smart Energy Systems; and ENGR 102: Building Science.
Located in the high-tech heart of California’s Silicon Valley, Foothill College enrolls more than 16,000 day, evening and online students each 12-week quarter. The Foothill-De Anza Community College District, one of the largest community college districts in the U.S., enrolls more than 40,000 students each quarter and serves the communities of Cupertino, Los Altos, Los Altos Hills, Mountain View, Palo Alto, Sunnyvale and portions of San Jose.
Learn more about campus improvements at Foothill and De Anza colleges that have been funded by Measure C at http://measurec.fhda.edu/.
Pictured with Foothill's photovoltaic array in the background are (from left) FHDA Vice Chancellor of Business Services Kevin McElroy, Foothill College President Judy C. Miner, PG&E Account Executive Frank Arroyo, Foothill College Vice President of Finance & Administrative Services Bernata Slater, FHDA Executive Director of Facilities, Operations & Construction Management Charles Allen, and Associated Students of Foothill College President Joseline Diaz.