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Cal Poly Takes Home a Trio of Sustainability Awards

Students at Cal Poly's Gold Tree Solar Farm

In the past few years, it has become increasingly important that all universities strive to be more environmentally sustainable. At Cal Poly, we are proud to be recognized on both national and state platforms for our efforts in progressing towards a carbon neutral campus. If you want an update on the latest awards the university has received, keep scrolling!

Recently, Cal Poly accepted the Direct Project Engagement Award for 2020 by the United States Environmental Protection Agency. How does one get recognized by the EPA you might ask? Well, this was no small feat as Cal Poly generated more than 10 million kilowatt-hours of green power each year from solar energy systems placed on site. If you’re unfamiliar with how incredible that number is, it's actually enough green power to meet more than 25 percent of the university’s electricity demand. A large contributor to this effort was the long-term power purchase agreement between Cal Poly and REC Solar which funded the Gold Tree Solar Farm that was created on 18.5 acres of a campus pasture. Not only will this solar array generate $17 million in savings over the next 20 years of its agreement, but it is the single largest PPA deal within the entire CSU system.

In July, Cal Poly was also honored at the annual California Higher Education Sustainability Conference for best practices in the Partnerships, Communications and Planning Committee category. Particularly, they were acknowledged for the project titled “Optimizing the Business Case for Carbon Neutrality and Climate Resilience,” which references the university’s Climate Action Plan. This plan outlines many strategies, one of them having been the Gold Tree Solar Farm, and has already reduced greenhouse gas emissions to levels before 1990. This is quite the accomplishment as since the 90’s Cal Poly has only doubled the amount of building square footage and on-campus housing. Now every time you drive past the stunning new yakʔitʸutʸu dorms at the front of campus you will not only admire its beauty but also know that while it was built greenhouse gas emissions were able to be kept at a minimum.

Additionally, at this conference Cal Poly was honored for two transformative studies, one of which is a comprehensive Utility Master Plan and the other is a deep customization of the Climate and Energy Scenario Analysis (CESA).

Last but not least, the university received a best practices award for Water Efficiency/Site Water Quality because of the project, “Reimagining Water — Reuse, Renewal, Resilience and Research”. This project essentially aims to create an on-campus recycled water system. The benefits of this new system include, expanding agricultural irrigation storage and distribution infrastructure, saving $10 million dollars, and creating another academic opportunity for students that will support new curriculum, research, and an innovative wastewater operator licensing program. A great way to continue learn by doing!

These awarded efforts are a testament to the great value Cal Poly places on maintaining a sustainable campus and we hope to see more recognition like this in the future. After all, our school colors are GREEN and gold!