UC system to build biomethane plant, solar array for renewable energy

Photo of solar panels
Lisi Ludwig/Senior Staff
As part of the UC system’s efforts to meet its 2025 carbon neutrality goal, it has partnered with Archaea Energy, LLC and Clearway Energy Group to build a biomethane facility and solar project. Operations for the project are expected to begin by 2023, with carbon neutrality being a goal for the UC system since 2007.

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The UC system has partnered with two energy companies to construct a biomethane plant and solar array to help bring it closer to its carbon neutrality goal by 2025.

Archaea Energy, LLC and Clearway Energy Group are building the biomethane facility and solar project, respectively, which are expected to reduce the UC system’s emissions by approximately 5%, according to UC Office of the President, or UCOP, spokesperson Stett Holbrook. The output from the solar project will be used to augment energy usage on UC campuses, and the biomethane will power UC utility plants, a UCOP press release states.

“UC is leading the state’s transition to carbon neutrality with these long-term investments in renewable electricity and biogas,” said David Phillips, associate vice president of the UC department of energy and sustainability, in the press release. “We started this journey 11 years ago and we are well down the road to achieving our goals, goals that will benefit all of California.”

The solar facility will be located in Kern County and will generate 134,000 megawatt hours per year of electricity for UC campuses, the press release states. Surplus electricity unused by campuses will be sold.

The biomethane plant, which harvests methane from decomposing organic waste, will reduce UC system carbon emissions by 23,490 metric tons, which is about 2.2% of its current footprint, according to Holbrook.

The project is expected to begin operations by 2023 and is contracted to provide methane to the UC system at a set price for 15 years, Holbrook said in an email. He added that the UC system plans to double biogas supplies by 2025 and fund a renewable energy project three times larger than the current project.

Carbon neutrality has been a goal for the UC system since 2007, and since 2009, the UC system has reduced greenhouse gas emissions by 15%. According to the press release, the UC system’s power company is carbon neutral and currently provides one-third of the energy used by campuses.

The goal of carbon neutrality by 2025 was set in the UC system’s 2013 Carbon Neutrality Initiative, which aims to create carbon neutral buildings and vehicle fleets.

According to the press release, the UC system has participated in more than 1,100 energy efficiency projects since 2005, and this has helped reduce utility spending by $285 million.

“With the effects of climate change being felt across California and the world in the form of raging wildfires, increasingly destructive hurricanes and melting polar ice caps, the time for decisive action is now,” said UC President Michael Drake in the press release. “The University’s latest green energy projects are evidence that a cleaner future is not only possible — it’s happening now at UC.”

Contact Leon Chen at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter at @leonwchen.