The Sierra Community College District is made up of four separate campuses covering over 3,200 square miles, serving students in Placer, Nevada, El Dorado, and Sacramento counties. Its main campus in Rocklin, CA, is located 30 minutes outside of Sacramento, and the Nevada County Campus in Grass Valley is the second largest site occupying more than 115 acres. Sierra College has an excellent reputation for general education transfer preparation and career/technical programs and training. Starting in 2008, the college board of trustees identified solar photovoltaics on their path to becoming better stewards of our planet that would save precious dollars in operating budgets.
The Sierra Community College solar power installations are a combination of carports, ground mounts, and roof mounted arrays. The bulk of the solar energy production is an 888 kW carport array on the Rocklin campus, providing over 300 covered parking spaces in parking lot J. The lot J array is comprised of 244 wired strings of 14 Yingli modules each. The remainder of the Rocklin solar production comes from an 84 kW array installed using Sunlink racking at a 20° tilt on the roofs of the student center and campus bookstore.
On the Grass Valley campus, solar was installed on the roof of four buildings, on three parking lot carports, and as a ground mount on an unused hillside. In total, Grass Valley has 282 kW of solar capacity.
Without the upfront capital to finance a solar power installation out of pocket, Sierra CCD took advantage of Borrego Solar’s in-house power purchase agreement (PPA). This private-public partnership allowed for the 1603 Treasury Grant and performance based incentive (PBI) from the California Solar Initiative (CSI) to be monetized and was passed on to Sierra CCD in the form of a below-the-grid rate for the energy their solar installations produce. Without any capital expenditure or maintenance and repair liabilities, Sierra CCD is replacing more than 50% of their energy with clean renewable solar electricity and saving over $2 million in energy over the term of their agreement.
In addition to the energy savings, Borrego Solar worked with the faculty and students at Rocklin in order to arrange an apprenticeship during the construction of the project. Students taking solar installation training courses were able to intern and observe the installation of solar roof, ground, and carport mounted structures firsthand.