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04/15/2008 07:00:00

Caltech to Have Largest Solar-Energy Facility in Pasadena

Earth Day is April 22

PASADENA, Calif.-The City of Pasadena's largest-ever solar-energy facility will soon be installed on the California Institute of Technology campus. Construction begins this week and will conclude in August. The facility will be located on top of Caltech's Holliston parking structure.

"This is part of Caltech's commitment to minimizing the Institute's impact on the environment and reducing our dependence on nonrenewable energy," said Caltech President Jean-Lou Chameau.

This facility is expected to have an annual energy production of 320,000 kilowatt-hours. The overall size of the structure is about 220 feet long by 90 feet wide, and it will cover more than half of the top level of the structure.

The remainder of Caltech's energy is supplied by an on-site campus cogeneration plant and by the City of Pasadena. The on-site generation facility provided 77 percent of campus consumption last year. Ultimately, Caltech hopes to add more solar facilities to the campus in an effort to further reduce its reliance on nonrenewable sources.

"The project came about as a result of Caltech's continual focus on the best practices in sustainability and on developing goals and objectives central to renewable energy as a means to save money, foster awareness, reduce environmental consequences of Institute activities, and provide leadership and stewardship relative to the environment," said Dean Currie, Caltech vice president for business and finance.

With these goals in mind, Caltech began construction of a solar-energy facility whose operation will be equivalent to eliminating 527,000 pounds of CO2 emissions from the air each year, removing 46 cars from operation, planting 72 acres of trees, or powering 38 average homes.

The City of Pasadena and Pasadena Water and Power have worked closely with Caltech to create the facility. The city and PWP are providing assistance with expedited permitting, technical support, and substantial rebates to promote renewable energy development in Pasadena. Design and construction will be completed by EI Solutions, a subsidiary of Energy Innovations of Pasadena. The project will be financed and operated through a Power Purchase Agreement between the campus and Solar Power Partners of Mill Valley, California.

"We're thrilled to be building a solar facility at Caltech and to be a part of the Institute's plans to reduce its impact on the environment and dependence on nonrenewable energy," said Andrew Beebe, president of EI Solutions. "Caltech is a leader in so many areas, and it is great to see it setting an example for universities and corporations across the country that are looking for ways to utilize economically sound green-energy alternatives like solar."

The solar-energy facility is one of many sustainability efforts the Caltech campus has undertaken in recent years. In addition to the previously mentioned cogeneration plant on campus, dining facilities use compostable food containers, incandescent lightbulbs are being switched to compact fluorescent bulbs, grounds planners use water-wise landscaping, there is a "green" cleaning program used by the custodial staff, an award-winning recycling program accepts items from the campus and local community, and the Caltech Electric Vehicle Club has a few electric cars that qualified users are free to drive.

Caltech is constructing three new buildings that will receive gold Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) ratings. This means the buildings will reduce their impact on the environment through energy and water efficiency and materials conservation, among other characteristics.

"We take a lot of pride in what we have accomplished to date, but we are even more excited about what the future holds," said Bill Irwin, senior director of facilities management at Caltech. "We plan to add more solar facilities in the near future, to produce up to an additional megawatt of power. We are looking for innovative ways to reduce water usage through sustainable planting and turf reduction and by capturing and reusing wastewater from our boilers. Caltech recently installed two high-efficiency water chillers and will install more this year, along with other energy-efficient equipment upgrades. These are just a few examples of current and future plans. We recognize that what we are doing today and will do tomorrow directly affects those who will come after us, and we would like to leave a positive legacy."

For a more comprehensive list of "green" initiatives at Caltech, go to the Sustainability at Caltech website at

About Caltech With an outstanding faculty, including five Nobel laureates, and such off-campus facilities as the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Palomar Observatory, and the W. M. Keck Observatory, the California Institute of Technology is one of the world's major research centers. The Institute also conducts instruction in science and engineering for a student body of approximately 900 undergraduates and 1,300 graduate students who maintain a high level of scholarship and intellectual achievement. Caltech's 124-acre campus is situated in Pasadena. Caltech is an independent, privately supported university. On the Web at

About EI Solutions EI Solutions is one of California's fastest-growing providers of commercial and utility-scale solar power systems. The company has completed projects for a wide variety of public agencies and private companies including Sony, BT, and the largest solar installation on a U.S. corporate campus, a 1.6 megawatt system on Google's Mountain View headquarters. EI Solutions' headquarters are in San Rafael, California, where all engineering, project management, finance, and administrative functions are based. EI Solutions also operates a sales and marketing office in Pasadena, at the home of its parent company, Energy Innovations. Energy Innovations, an Idealab company, is a manufacturer of commercial solar products that maximize usable energy from the sun. More information can be found at or by calling 800.237.0916.

Written by Jill Perry