Solar Leaders In Universities, In The Air, & In The Solar Industry

  • Published on June 17th, 2016 by

A society-wide transition to clean energy requires action on many levels. Private consumers, commercial-level consumers, institutions, and government need to aid the transition. Additionally, of course, the production side of the industry has to continually advance the technologies and improve their competitiveness.

An exciting story out of California combined with a worldwide journey above the clouds help to tie these different sectors together and inspire faster change. As we’ve stated before, the key aim of the Solar Impulse 2 crew isn’t just to set aviation and technology records. Rather, the key aim is to show the world that these technologies are ready, and to thus inspire more people to switch to cleantech for their energy and transportation needs.

One recent story on the ground in California, using tech from two core Solar Impulse 2 partners, further demonstrates that this tech is ready now. Additionally, it sets an example for what universities and other institutions around the world can do immediately to cut a significant portion of their pollution and carbon emissions. I encourage you to check out the video above (if you haven’t yet) for a lot more details and perspective, but below are some of the highlights.

A 16.3-megawatt SunPower solar farm using SunPower* solar panels and ABB* inverters is now providing electricity for UC Davis (the University of California, Davis). UC Davis noted when the project started that the solar farm would be “the largest solar power installation in the University of California system, and the largest solar power plant to offset the electricity demand of a U.S. university or college campus.” Let’s hope the records don’t last for long.

The solar farm is estimated to be generating 14% of UC Davis’ electricity needs and reducing the university’s carbon footprint by an impressive 9%. Overall, UC Davis aims to have 60% of its electricity needs provided by renewables by 2017. That even surpasses California’s goal of 50% renewable electricity by 2020.

With solar prices hitting record lows that are lower than the price of electricity from natural gas, coal, nuclear, or even wind, why wouldn’t an ethical and penny-wise university transition to clean power that ensures a better future for the youth it is educating? Providing a good example is, after all, a solid component of a good education system.

Aside from the ethical imperative to transition away from fossil fuels, UC Davis notes, “solar power is finally becoming cheap enough to make sense for large-scale energy users like UC Davis.”

One of the nice things about this project from a CleanTechnica perspective is that the technologies being used come from companies that serve the industrial sector, the commercial sector, and the residential sector. SunPower and ABB offer a wide range of solar products that serve the varying needs of these customers. Can you see why Solar Impulse 2 chose them to help power their pioneering flight around the world?

*Full Disclosure: ABB kindly sponsored this article, and I own stock in SunPower and ABB (for what I think are obvious reasons).

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About the Author

is the director of CleanTechnica, the most popular cleantech-focused website in the world, and Planetsave, a world-leading green and science news site. He has been covering green news of various sorts since 2008, and he has been especially focused on solar energy, electric vehicles, and wind energy since 2009. Aside from his work on CleanTechnica and Planetsave, he's the founder and director of Solar Love, EV Obsession, and Bikocity. To connect with Zach on some of your favorite social networks, go to and click on the relevant buttons.