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Chevron, Fresno State Partner in Solar-Power Parking Project

Construction has begun at California State University, Fresno on a solar panel-topped parking structure system being built by Chevron Energy Solutions, a Chevron subsidiary, that will be the largest of its kind at any university in the United States.

Photovoltaic panels installed atop 10 metal shelters that will shade more than 700 parking spaces from the San Joaquin Valley sun, will convert the sun's energy into 1 megawatt of electricity. That's about 20 percent of the university's base demand and equivalent to the power needs of 1,000 homes, said Cynthia Teniente-Matson, Fresno State vice president for administration and chief financial officer.

The $11.9-million project received approval from the California State University Board of Trustees last summer and is scheduled for completion by this fall.

The work will be done in phases to minimize the impact of parking lot closings on students.

Phase 1 will start with renovation of the south part of student parking Lot V, which is at Woodrow and Shaw avenues, directly west of the Student Recreation Center, said Bob Boyd, associate vice president for facilities management.

University Police Department is working with the contractors and Save Mart Center officials to minimize the impact of the project on big events at the arena by opening some of the construction area to parking. Most events, however, occur in evenings when there are the fewest students, faculty and staff on campus. A substantial part of the work will occur after Commencement (May 19) and the end of spring semester classes, which decreases parking demand.

Using alternative power will ease the burden on local power supplier Pacific Gas & Electric Co., and the entire California power grid, especially during peak electricity demand periods such as those that occur during very hot weather. It also reduces greenhouse gas emissions and fuel consumption by power generating plants.

Fresno State President John D. Welty said the solar power project is "a great example" of the university's goal to "lead the way in helping to advance sustainability initiatives and utilize scarce natural resources."

"Solar power is an important resource in the global energy portfolio," said Jim Davis, president of Chevron Energy Solutions. "Through this project, Fresno State is demonstrating that clean, renewable power is commercially viable and growing in demand."

The photovoltaic solar project is in keeping with our Strategic Plan and is part of our comprehensive Campus Master Plan currently in progress.

"The Strategic Plan addresses our need to become a more environmentally aware campus by expanding recycling, sustainability in building design and construction, improved energy efficiency and environmental education," said Teniente-Matson.

This project also is integrated with the educational mission of the university, aligned with the College of Engineering and the Physics Department. In both of those areas, an information kiosk will provide online, real time status of the photovoltaic production, conversion and electricity output.

"All aspects of this project will expand and enhance our campus education on sustainability and our community's knowledge of solar energy while reducing our energy cost for the next 30 years," said Teniente-Matson.

The solar-power project is just one of the university's "green campus" initiatives, many of which are part of the Campus Master Plan, which will guide development of the 363-acre academic campus through the next decade and beyond.

Parking is a major consideration in the master plan as the university seeks to add spaces to meet growth needs, but not at the expense of committing more than the current 75 acres devoted to parking.

In addition to the solar panels for electrical generation, the covered parking areas will provide ultraviolet and environmental (tree leaves, etc.) vehicle protection including much-welcomed shade in the summer months, said Teniente-Matson.

The solar project also is part of the California State University system's commitment to "green" programs, sustainability, energy efficiency and environmental education. CSU trustees recently revised the 23-campus system's energy policy with a goal of reducing consumption by 15 percent, following a 10 percent reduction from 1999/2000 through 2005.

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