Photo: Gregory Urquiaga/UC Davis

Campus Taps the Sun’s Energy

May 30, 2016 | Environment, On Campus, Spring 2016

A 62-acre plot on the south end of campus is now generating 14 percent of UC Davis’ electricity.

Chancellor Linda P.B. Katehi on Nov. 20 dedicated the new 16.3-megawatt SunPower solar power plant, which will reduce the university’s carbon footprint by 9 percent.

“In the fight against climate change, this is another progressive step forward for a UC Davis campus that is already a global leader in sustainability,” Katehi said.

SunPower owns and operates the plant, and sells the electricity to UC Davis.

Bob Redlinger, SunPower commercial director, pointed out some of the features that make the solar plant more efficient: The panels slowly tilt throughout the day to face directly at the sun, and they are cleaned by robots.

Those robots are “local,” by the way, developed by Greenbotics, a Davis-based company that SunPower acquired in 2013. Each robot sprays a carefully measured amount of water on each panel, scrubbing it and squeegeeing it. The robotic cleaning is 75 percent more water efficient than using a hose and a brush.

The bottom line: Clean panels can perform up to 15 percent better in collecting the sun’s energy.