REDMOND, OR -- The Redmond campus of Central Oregon Community College is now generating 90% of its own electricity. COCC powered up a new 504-kilowatt solar array at the campus, Thursday. Planning began nearly two years ago. Dignitaries, including Deschutes County Commissioner Alan Unger, Redmond City Councilor Joe Centanni and U.S. Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR), were on hand for the dedication.
The crowd moved indoors for the first part of the ceremony, due to rain, and officials used the opportunity to reiterate that the system continues to generate power, even with clouds.
Before heading outside to help turn on the system, Senator Wyden told the small crowd, "This is really serious stuff. It’s about jobs; it’s obviously about environmental benefits, cutting carbon and local air pollutants. And, third, schools benefit, because it can reduce energy costs at schools and they can plow that money back into other campus endeavors." The array's more than 1500 solar panels were made by Hillsboro-based SolarWorld, and installed by Sunlight Solar Energy, in Bend. "We’re going to be building a cleaner energy future in the years ahead," said Wyden. "And, it’s so great to see the community college, right here in Central Oregon, helping us to pave the way. We’ve made progress in recent years, but there’s a lot of heavy lifting to do."
Through the energy created by the array and a 20-year power purchase agreement, COCC expects to save around $50,000 a year. Aside from the environmental and financial benefits, COCC President Dr. Shirley Matcalf says a Physics teacher is already using it as an educational tool. "He’s very excited about having the ability to show the students what the solar energy panels do, because they were here. The students were able to see it being built. So, for our Physics classes, we’re very excited; and for some of our other classes, too." She says a writing class is using it as inspiration for assignments, as well.
And, Dr. Metcalf says the project reaffirms the school’s commitment to green energy. "Students, many years, ago voted for a sustainability fee. We were the first collegiate student body in the country to increase our friends to pay for renewable energy."
The $2 million project is the second largest solar array at an educational institution in the state, and was partly funded through grants from Pacific Power and Energy Trust of Oregon.