Overall Rating Gold
Overall Score 70.16
Liaison Kylee Singh
Submission Date Sept. 19, 2019
Executive Letter Download

STARS v2.1

California Polytechnic State University
IN-26: Innovation C

Status Score Responsible Party
Complete 1.00 / 1.00 Kylee Singh
Sustainability Coordinator
Energy Utilities and Sustainability
"---" indicates that no data was submitted for this field

Name or title of the innovative policy, practice, program, or outcome:
Innovatively Advancing the Academic Mission

A brief description of the innovative policy, practice, program, or outcome that outlines how credit criteria are met and any positive measurable outcomes associated with the innovation:

Cal Poly's 4.5 MW Gold Tree Solar Farm demonstrates how collaboration between Facilities and academics can transform campus buildings and infrastructure into more impactful academic assets. In addition to the $17M in utility savings the solar farm will realize over 20 years, it is financing construction of a new laboratory and supporting five innovative academic partner programs.
Academic departments were engaged for input during RFP development to identify their programmatic needs and opportunities for integration into the solar project. The RFP included an “Academic Component” that bidders were required to respond to, weighted at 10% of the evaluation score. Negotiations with the selected vendor – REC Solar - resulted in an Academic Services Agreement and creation of a new 25 kW Solar Engineering and Microgrid Laboratory at the Electrical Engineering building – financed by the PPA and scheduled for construction in summer of 2019. The lab will teach solar engineering design fundamentals and advanced energy storage and microgrid applications. Additional funding from REC over the next five years will support:
• Entrepreneurial student Clean Tech startups through non-profit Poly Canyon Ventures.
• Research on solar farm vegetation management practices using sheep grazing.
• Purchase of needed EE solar lab equipment and ongoing curriculum development.
• Campus wide sustainability curriculum infusion programs to increase the number of courses meeting AASHE STARS criteria.
• The Central Coast Climate Collaborative by creating a searchable database of climate-focused researchers across the five UC and CSU campuses of the region to connect them with adaptation and resilience project needs in their communities.

This new approach to project planning for academic innovation is already being applied to the next big sustainable infrastructure project at Cal Poly – creation of an on-campus recycled water facility to treat campus waste water for Ag irrigation, providing a wealth of new opportunities for curriculum development and applied research.

The 4.5MW Gold Tree Solar PV project, while significant, was a relatively straight forward PPA solicitation and design-build project. Undertaken prior to issuance of CSU's Phase IV solar MEA, this project started with CSU's Phase III RFP and SLPPA documents and updated them to today's requirements and the unique aspects of this particular project site and chosen utility tariff - the RES-BCT (Renewable Energy Self-Generation Bill Credit Transfer) program. The unique financial benefits of the RES-BCT tariff and record low $0.0605/kWh flat-rate 20 year PPA provided significant value - saving $17M over 20 years and creating new opportunities for academic collaboration and sustainability program investment.

By articulating a vision for the academic applications of such a system in the RFP, bidders were able to understand not only Cal Poly's long term aspirations for the project and the programs it could support, but were motivated to bring even more ideas to the table. Proposals were evaluated based on vendor qualifications, Net Present Value of savings, and response to the Academic Component of the RFP. Negotiations with the selected vendor resulted in contractual agreements - financed by the overall project and vendor's marketing budget - to support the best ideas under a separate Academic Services Agreement.

As soon as Cal Poly had committed to pursuing this project, it reached out to neighboring California Men's Colony and the City and County of San Luis Obispo to make them aware that they had similar opportunities through the RES-BCT program. The County and CMC are now proceeding with their own solar projects, and the City has committed to carbon neutrality by 2035 and voted to join the Monterey Bay Community Power CCA.

At Cal Poly's second annual campus wide Sustainability Charrette - part of 2017 Earth Week events - Lean Process Improvement and facilitated Liberating Structures activities were used to engage a broad cross section of faculty, staff, and student stakeholders to brainstorm ways to maximize the academic value of the solar farm and solar laboratory. Attendees identified potential stakeholders, developed strategic goals and discreet initiatives, and step-by-step actions to bring them to fruition.

Since completion, the solar farm has been toured by hundreds of students in classes from many disciplines, as well as city and county officials working on their own renewable energy project plans. Workshops have been held to train faculty and students how to access and use the Green Power Monitor data portal:


Which of the following impact areas does the innovation most closely relate to? (select up to three):

A letter of affirmation from an individual with relevant expertise or a press release or publication featuring the innovation :

The website URL where information about the programs or initiatives is available:
Additional documentation to support the submission:

The information presented here is self-reported. While AASHE staff review portions of all STARS reports and institutions are welcome to seek additional forms of review, the data in STARS reports are not verified by AASHE. If you believe any of this information is erroneous or inconsistent with credit criteria, please review the process for inquiring about the information reported by an institution and complete the Data Inquiry Form.