After more than four decades of dedicated service at Cal Poly, Dennis Elliot, the executive director of Energy and Infrastructure Planning, will be retiring in June. Throughout his career, Dennis has been a driving force behind Cal Poly's sustainability initiatives, leaving a lasting impact on the university and its community.
Elliot's journey at Cal Poly began in 1982 when he enrolled as a mechanical engineering student. During his student years, he worked as a night shift student employee in the Central Plant. Over the years, Elliot's roles expanded, showcasing his remarkable dedication and leadership qualities.
One of Elliot's most significant contributions lies in the field of renewable energy. He spearheaded the installation of every solar photovoltaic array on campus, from the initial 135 kW array on Engineering West in 2006 to the impressive 4.5 MW Gold Tree Solar Farm in 2018. Thanks to these efforts, Cal Poly now saves over $1 million annually. In 2022, the university was on the cusp of achieving 30% of its electricity from solar power - largely thanks to Elliot.
Under Elliot's guidance, Cal Poly has become a sustainability leader in the California State University system, attaining one of the highest Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System (STARS) scores. With his leadership, the university is aiming for a coveted Platinum STARS rating, a distinction achieved by only 12 campuses worldwide. This commitment to sustainability has transformed Cal Poly's patterns of production and consumption.
Elliot's influence extends beyond energy. His time overseeing water management saw water usage per square foot at Cal Poly reduced by half, employing strategies such as low-flow retrofits, smart irrigation, and turf removal. Additionally, he initiated efforts to establish an on-campus recycled water supply and an interconnection with the State Water Project.
“I am deeply grateful for my experiences at Cal Poly as both a student and employee. This institution has provided me countless opportunities to learn and grow, take on challenges and responsibilities, and try new things,” says Elliot. “It has been an incredibly rewarding experience to help lead Facilities to where it is today and chart a course to carbon neutrality and climate resilience in support of the university’s academic mission.”
As Elliot prepares to retire the Cal Poly community applauds his outstanding contributions. His leadership has earned numerous awards for Cal Poly Sustainability, and his dedication has fostered a culture of sustainability on campus. To carry on Elliot’s legacy, the recently established Dennis Elliot Sustainability Award will honor individuals who demonstrate excellence in sustainable facilities management. His legacy at Cal Poly will continue to inspire future generations, driving them towards a more environmentally conscious world.