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Since 2013, five large grid-tied, ground-mounted solar electric (photovoltaic) arrays have been installed on agricultural lands operated by Oregon State University as part of “Solar by Degrees,” a large-scale photovoltaic power program coordinated by the Oregon University System. OSU was the first to install and have operational solar arrays.
The five arrays cover more than twelve acres combined. Three are in Corvallis two are at OSU properties elsewhere in the state. The 35th Street site is the largest, at around six acres and 1,435 kilowatts. It can be found west of the Corvallis campus on the Campus Way bike path. The 53rd Street site is 289 kilowatts and is located adjacent to the bike path just east of the Benton County Fairgrounds. The Aquatic Animal Health Lab site, with a capacity of 482 kilowatts, is located adjacent to Trysting Tree Golf Course just east of the Willamette River, off the main campus.
The two locations outside Corvallis are in Aurora, Oregon and Hermiston, Oregon. The 221 kilowatt array in Aurora is the North Willamette Research and Extension Center (NWREC) farm across from Charbonneau Village on Miley Road. The 431 kilowatt array in Hermiston Agricultural Research & Extension Center houses OSU's only Eastern Oregon solar location to date. All five sites were developed in partnership with the College of Agricultural Sciences, to which the property is assigned.
The five arrays produce around 3,286,780 kilowatt hours annually, combined. This provides between 3% and 4% of OSU's total combined electrical needs (for all facilities across the state). According to the US EPA’s Greenhouse Gas Equivalencies Calculator, that is equivalent to reducing carbon dioxide emissions from 255,025 gallons of gasoline, eliminating greenhouse gas emissions from 477 passenger vehicles, or offsetting CO2 emissions from the electricity use of 312 homes for a year.
Under a power purchase agreement, OSU is leasing land to SolarCity, which installs, owns, maintains and operates solar equipment tied to the electric grid “downstream” from OSU electric meters. OSU purchases renewable electricity generated by the solar equipment at a rate lower than from the local utility but still relies on the utility to provide whatever power is needed beyond what the solar system can produce.
SolarWorld, the largest United States solar manufacturer, supplied more than 3,000 high-performance solar panels for the installations. SolarWorld manufactures solar technology, from raw material silicon to finished solar panels, in Hillsboro, Ore., at its 97-acre U.S. manufacturing headquarters.