College in California Becomes First to Produce More Energy Than it Uses

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Institutes of higher learning are designed to energize and empower communities to reach a brighter future -- but one school in California is taking that mission literally. For the very first time, a college in the United States has managed to not only go off the grid by producing their own clean electricity, but to produce enough of the stuff to power hundreds of homes as well. And the best part of all, with the money they'll save, educators can focus less on dollars and cents and more on teaching.This week, Butte College in Northern California makes history by becoming the first college to become 'grid positive' thanks to its sustainable energy infrastructure of solar arrays. The college boasts some 25,000 solar panels that can generate over 6.5 million kilowatt hours of electricity per year. All told, the clean energy produced at Butte is equivalent to taking 615 cars off the road, and is enough to power over 900 homes.

Photo: PRNewsFoto/Butte College

But of course, the benefits of a renewable energy infrastructure extend beyond reducing carbon emissions. By eliminating its energy costs, and by profitting from the extra energy put back into the grid, Butte College is on track to save an estimated $50 million and $75 million over the next 15 years, and that's including the cost it took to install the solar arrays!

"Butte College has had a longstanding commitment to sustainability. Achieving grid-positive status marks the culmination of years of effort to build Butte College's supply of solar power and to improve energy efficiency on campus," said Dr. Diana Van Der Ploeg, Butte College president, in a release. "Having the support of the board of trustees, faculty, staff, and students was essential to making this achievement possible."

With all those extra savings, Butte's budget allotments that were once devoted to keeping the light on can now be spent turning lightbulbs on over its students' heads. And thanks to the college's forward-thinking example, perhaps those ideas will be of new ways to power the world.

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