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Winner of State Awards for Sustainability Efforts

Statewide sustainability awards continue to stack up for Cal Poly’s solar farm and other efforts to move the campus toward net zero status.

The university was honored for its innovative sustainability practices with three awards from two statewide organizations between July and October.

The Facilities Energy, Utilities, and Sustainability department, along with Strategic Business Services, received a California Higher Education Sustainability Conference, or CHESC, best practice award over the summer. And last month, that sustainability department and the campus’s Transportation and Parking Services were honored at the California Higher Education Collaborative Conference at UCLA with a pair of honors. 

“We have had an incredible start to the fiscal year,” said Dennis Elliot, director of Energy, Utilities, and Sustainability. “It’s always encouraging to be recognized as one of the best when being compared to so many other universities, and we hope to continue to find more and more ways to be a top-performing sustainable campus.” 

The 4.5-megawatt Gold Tree Solar Farm — which can produce enough power to meet one quarter of the campus’ needs — was recognized at both sustainability conferences.

“Cal Poly’s Gold Tree Solar Farm, energized in May of 2018, is a tremendous example of how innovative planning and collaboration can transform the impact of campus building and infrastructure projects to maximize their value as academic assets,” CHESC organizers wrote. “In addition to the $17 million in utility savings the solar farm will realize over 20 years, it is financing construction of a new Solar Engineering and Microgrid Laboratory and supporting five innovative academic partner programs.” 

In addition, the solar plant played a role in the university recently earning a STARS Gold Rating — the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education’s second highest honor and the campus best to date — in recognition of Cal Poly’s sustainability achievements. The Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System, or STARS, measures and encourages sustainability in all aspects of higher education — including academics, engagement, operations, planning, administration, innovation, and leadership efforts.

At the California Higher Education Collaborative Conference, held Oct. 1-3, Transportation and Parking Services garnered a sustainability award for its innovative parking plan that launched at the start of the 2017-18 academic year and was fine-tuned during the 2018-19 year.

The department created assigned parking zones for commuter students designed to reduce the hunt for parking spaces and resultant traffic congestion, air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. In addition, it implemented a pricing system that charges more to park in areas closest to the campus core and less for areas further away to give commuters a choice.

“For lots further from the core of campus we maintained lower parking prices to give students a price option,” the department wrote. “The change proved successful by reducing traffic in the core of campus and guaranteeing parking in the assigned lots for parking permit holders.”

Cal Poly is so far the only school in the 23-campus California State University system with this type of parking program, officials said.

The departments are all part of the Administration and Finance division, which is the steward of Cal Poly’s resources, consisting of eight units that fulfill major operational roles for the university. With an annual budget of $101.4 million, the division is responsible for capital project planning and maintenance of nearly 6 million square feet of space in the 150 major buildings on campus.

To see how you can be a part of the effort, or learn more about what the university is doing to keep sustainability at the forefront of campus operations, see: