An ambitious solar project rolling out across Oregon college campuses next week would set one university on a path toward energy independence.
The five megawatts planned for Oregon Institute of Technology, Oregon State University, and Eastern Oregon would create a bigger solar project than any currently operating in Oregon.
Contracts still need to be finalized. But officials intend to break ground next week on OIT's Klamath Falls campus. It would get the biggest solar array.
"It's really a big deal. It's exciting. It's terrific for the people of Oregon, and it's really going to save us money in the long run," says OIT's President Christopher Maples.
He says before long the campus will be able to produce all of its own power – because it's also planning to use geothermal power.
He says renewable energy should help students in two ways. They can learn about it, and the energy cost savings will be passed along to them.
"The other savings that will come from these renewable energy projects will really be able to help offset increases in tuition a little bit."
Oregon's other four public universities would build solar projects next year, in a second phase.
State energy department records list the total estimated cost at more than $26 million. State and federal tax credits could cover much of that.