Pacific Spearheads a New Solar Panel Project

Feb 13, 2021
The Pacifican

By: Angelique Doty 

The Solar Panel Project is being put into action to make Pacific one of America’s leading college campuses in renewable energy.  The construction consists of building solar canopy arrays in the university’s parking lots with battery storage and providing charging stations for electric vehicles

The arrays will be in eight of the university’s parking lots and an electric vehicle charging station will be in each lot as well.  The project will also be in collaboration with Tesla, involving installing 16 electric vehicle charging ports across the campus.

Graeme Mitchell, former assistant vice president of facilities at Pacific said of working with Tesla, “…they are one of the industry leaders in electric vehicles and clean energy.”  

According to the immediate email release sent out by Liam Connolly, Senior Director of Media Relations at Pacific on February 3rd, the Solar Panel Project will support over 30% of Pacific’s energy uses.  The Pacific campus in Stockton is ranking in second place in the nation for campuses that generate solar powered energy, according to Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System reports.  

Jessica Bilecki, sustainability director for the Solar Panel Project, coordinated the process of requesting project proposals from vendors and coordinating the contract and design efforts with Pacific staff and Tesla staff.  According to Bilecki, some of the benefits of this project include: increasing use of renewable energy sources and lowering the carbon footprint, maintaining affordable utility rates over time, providing additional educational and professional development opportunities to students, and a user-paid charging for electric vehicles.  The canopies will also provide shaded parking and enhance the University’s reputation as an economically, socially, and environmentally responsible school among prospective students, the local community, and nationally recognized publications.

The release describes the location of the planned solar photovoltaic canopies to cover 8 parking lots on both sides of the Calaveras River on the Pacific Stockton campus.  The panels will generate 5.3 megawatts of electricity with 1 megawatt of battery.  The solar canopies will generate electricity equivalent of one thousand cars each year and provide the same amount of energy for 650 homes each year.  The Solar Panel Project will not only save about 5,000 metric tons of greenhouse gasses each year, it also provides a research opportunity for students and faculty who can assess the data.  The solar canopies are in the process of being constructed and will be finished approximately by early 2022.  

Included in Connolly’s email release was President Christopher Callahan expressing his excitement for Pacific’s part in this sustainability effort: “We are proud to take this national leadership role in campus-based sustainability and renewable energy efforts.  The solar project is just the latest example of Pacific's tradition of leadership through innovation and our focus on reducing our carbon footprint,” said Callahan. 

Bilecki provides insight on how people in general can impact greenhouse gas emissions. 

“How people behave and interact with a building they are in can, on average, impact the energy footprint of that building by about 10%.” Bilecki also mentioned some upcoming sustainability projects that Pacific plans to help reduce the carbon footprint, such as LED lighting upgrades, or improving building controls on HVAC systems, that can help the sustainability efforts.  

This April, students can explore the impact of personal actions by participating in the one-week Sustainability Challenge on Instagram hosted by Pacific .