Bellevue College awarded $605k in Department of Commerce funding

Date posted: March 31, 2014

Energy Efficiency and Solar Grants program funds help campus sustainability efforts

Bellevue College recently received a $410,000 grant from the Washington State Department of Commerce Energy Efficiency and Solar Grants program to construct an 83KW solar photo-voltaic array on the roof of the R building on the main Bellevue campus.  The DOC also awarded the college an additional $195,000 for campus-wide energy efficiency upgrades.

The new solar array will be a large addition to an existing 7KW system and could generate enough electricity to power up to 70 percent of the building electric load on a sunny summer afternoon or an estimated 85,737 KwH per year.

These awards come on top of $2 million in grant funding awarded to Bellevue College in the last two grant cycles from the DOC for energy efficiency projects including campus-wide lighting and water retrofits, HVAC controls, campus equipment replacements or repairs, energy meters for all buildings and the Building Dashboard, a system allowing visitors to see real-time data on energy use on campus by building.

“Washington State’s Energy Grants have been critical for getting the infrastructure in place to manage and reduce our energy consumption; and associated greenhouse gas emissions and operating expenses,” said Deric Gruen, Bellevue College sustainability director.  “The new Solar Grants component gave us a unique opportunity to make solar electricity generation cost effective for the college.”

Projects in energy efficiency and clean energy support Bellevue College’s core themes, said Gruen, including honoring and practicing sustainability as a part of college life and culture, and being a leader and partner in building a strong and vibrant regional sustainability model.  Taking these steps towards energy efficiency also helps to create opportunities to use the campus as a living lab for faculty interested in integrating sustainability across the curriculum.

“When instructors can point to concrete examples of sustainable features such as solar panels or community gardens right here on campus, it makes these concepts much more realistic,” said Adjunct Science Faculty Amanda Senft. “For example, when I teach the unit on renewable energy, it’s nice that I can take the students by the C building or the R building to show how they’re using alternative energy sources for heating and electricity.”

The grants awarded to Bellevue College are part of the first conferred under the DOC’s 2013-2015 Energy Efficiency and Solar Grants program. The agency announced grant awards to five higher education institutions, 27 local governments and four state agencies in March 2014.

The DOC Energy Efficiency and Solar Grants program works in part to reduce energy costs at the state’s public higher education institutions, local government facilities and state agencies, and promotes the use of Washington-manufactured solar products, including solar modules and inverters.