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College of the Redwoods Approves Solar Energy Plan

Published on 10/8/2020.

At the October 6th regular meeting of the Board of Trustees, the College of the Redwoods Board approved a proposal from ForeFront Power, a solar energy company based in San Francisco, to convert the main campus’s power usage to renewable solar energy. This approval is a major step forward in a project that is expected to put CR at the forefront of sustainability and resiliency in the region.

The system is a 2.1 megawatt system with an additional 500 KW of battery storage that will cover about three acres of open field space on campus, about a third of campus parking, and the roof the Learning Resource Center. The energy generated by the system is expected to provide about 90% of the campus’s energy demands. It will allow CR to get ahead of sustainability requirements that will most likely come down from Sacramento in the next few years.

“Our Board of Trustees took a very courageous and far-reaching decision to approve CR’s new solar energy project for the Eureka Campus” said President Keith Flamer.  “Our trustees know that expanding the use of solar power will not only provide a reliable energy source for the campus and a platform for additional academic programming, but it will also help mitigate the problems associated with climate change.”

The project will begin shorty, with a rigorous feasibility study with PG&E that should take about a year before construction can commence. ForeFront Power does not require any initial capital outlay for the project from CR and they will design, construct, own, operate, and maintain the grid. CR will then buy power from them for a fixed, flat rate for 20 years. At the end of that time, the district takes ownership of the system.

Included in the agreement is a “performance guarantee”, stating that if there is any period when the grid does not generate enough energy to meet the 90% threshold for CR and CR has to buy it from PG&E, ForeFront will pay the college back for it. This incentivizes them to keep energy production up.

Additionally, this project will create a “living lab” of sustainability for students with the possibility of internships and fellowships with ForeFront, integrating with CR’s current Construction Tech Solar program.

Kerry Mayer, CR’s Dean of Career Education is very excited by the possibility, stating, “The number of jobs in solar energy is rising exponentially in California, and this project will give our students real-word insight into the knowledge and skills necessary to excel in this growing field.”

ForeFront Power will also provide the campus with renewable education resources including several libraries of education materials on renewable energy, including certifications for energy audits, solar analysis, and energy efficiency analysis.

After the feasibility study is complete and the project is approved, it will take about 12 weeks to install the system. Estimated cost savings to the college are $4.2 million over the 20 year period.



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