Solar Powerhouse Developing at Social Sciences Parking

The Social Sciences Parking Structure has been under renovation for the last several months and will be home to the first of UC Irvine’s newest solar power installation once construction is completed in December.

The top level of the Social Sciences Parking Structure has been under the site of continuing construction and will be closed for the next couple months as workers install a solar-power-producing canopy, according to Transportation and Distribution Services. The construction is part of a larger project by UC Irvine administrators to significantly increase the amount of solar power produced by the university in the near future.

“We are pleased to be adding more renewable resources to our campus energy infrastructure in support of the University of California’s goal of carbon neutrality by 2025,” said Vice Chancellor for Business and Administrative Services Wendell Brase in a press release about the project.

The solar power project will result in the installation of more than 11,700 solar panels that will create an estimated 3.2 megawatts of power, or enough electricity to power an estimated 1,800 homes. This will increase UC Irvine’s solar power production by over 300 percent, which currently stands at 1,052 kilowatts or 1.052 megawatts.

Under the current agreement the solar panels will be installed by UCI but will be owned and maintained by a subsidiary of the Florida-based NextEra Energy Resources for the next 25 years. During this time, UC Irvine will purchase electricity produced by the solar cells at a discounted price from NextEra’s subsidiary.

According to the press release, the new canopies will act both as solar energy producers and shade structures for vehicles parked on the top floor of the structure. The solar cells were manufactured by the Oregon-based SolarWorld Americas Inc. and use a greater quantity of glass as compared to older models of photovoltaic power cells, which will result in increased efficiency and durability.

A portion of the project for SSPS is set to be complete in December of this year, according to Transportation and Distribution Services Strategic Communications Manager Julianna Bayley. However, she claims her department does not have control over the installation process and cannot make demands to the contractor regarding the continuation and speed of the project.

As part of the construction process for SSPS, the entrance from Stanford Dr. was closed from Monday Oct. 27 to Wednesday Oct. 29 and Monday Nov. 10 to Tuesday Nov. 11 in order to allow work crews to move material for the project according to Bayley.

This project is seen as a symbol of UC Irvine’s advancement into the future of clean energy both by UC Irvine administrators and NextEra Energy leadership.

“As a clean energy leader, we are proud to be working with UC Irvine to bring emission-free energy to the campus,” said NextEra Energy Resources’ Vice President of Distributed Generation, Andrew Beebe.

The project will expand to the Student Center Parking Structure and Mesa Parking Structures in the future. Both structures are scheduled to have solar panel canopies installed in the coming months, though an exact timeline cannot be verified as of the time of this publication. According to the Transportation and Distribution Services website, the project will be completed sometime in spring quarter, with a more comprehensive schedule to be released sometime in the future.

More updates on parking related improvement projects and policies are expected to come in the future.