Solar Construction at MLK Student Union

UC Berkeley is Now Generating 1MW of Power From the Sun                             

March 28, 2016

Solar PV systems at MLK Student Union, the new Eshleman, the Recreation Sports complex, and the University Village apartments are now operational. The Office of Sustainability and Energy worked in a collaborative, competitive procurement strategy with 19 other public agencies in the region, led by the Alameda County General Services division, Berkeley secured very favorable pricing for these three rooftop and one canopy/carport installations – 25-40% below market rate.  In aggregate these systems will bring cost savings in year one to the campus.  The solar will be installed by a purchase power agreement (PPA) - the vendor is covering the costs of installation and operating and maintaining the systems, and Berkeley will pay for the power they generate.  Learn more about the regional renewable energy procurement program.

Solar Panels at the RSF ComplexLast year, Jacobs Hall, the new campus building for design innovation in engineering, opened with rooftop solar arrays installed by Sungevity. These arrays are translucent solar panels that not only produce electricity but are an architectural feature. Learn more about Sungevity’s partnership with Berkeley and the associated program that can bring solar to your home.

These projects bring UC Berkeley into a new era of solar power use. Solar projects have been completed previously – panels were installed in 2003 at the Martin Luther King Student Union, and Maximo Martinez Commons uses solar thermal energy – but the upcoming installation is much greater in extent and projected lifetime.

Solar Locations on Campus:

Solar Array at Jacobs Hall

  • The rooftop solar panels on MLK Student Union replace (and expand) an older less productive system. The solar array on new the Eshleman Hall will add even more green power to the Lower Sproul complex.  Together these two systems will produce 150,000 kWh solar electricity for the buildings.

  • Recreation Sports large field house roof offers space for an array that will produce 340,000 kWh of solar power, providing close to one-third of the buildings electricity needs.  See the realtime production.

  • The University Village carport solar system will produce 700,000 kWh of carbon-free solar electricity each year, providing 20% of the power needs of the village. See the realtime production.

  • Jacobs Hall rooftop solar arrays will produce about 120,000 kWh of clean power each year for the building.

These sites were selected because they meet the physical requirements for solar power and because the stakeholders, including student users of the facilities, showed interest in solar power. 

Regional Renewable Energy Procurement

Joining the Regional Renewable Energy Procurement (R-REP) initiative was a critical step in making the solar project a reality. By joining with other Bay Area public agencies also interested in obtaining solar power, UC Berkeley received expert technical evaluation, an extensive vendor review and selection process, collaborative legal document development, and below market pricing.

Student Support for Solar

The Green Initiative Fund

Students have had a keen interest in making these solar projects a reality. The R-REP solar installations were supported by a grant from The Green Initiative Fund in 2013. This grant helped provide initial investment and campus support for UC Berkeley to enter the R-REP program, allowing the campus to pursue solar installations. Furthermore, the TGIF grant funds a student engagement component so that these installations align with UC Berkeley's focus on research and teaching. TGIF was founded with the intention of bringing more clean energy to UC Berkeley, so TGIF is fulfilling one of its major goals through this project.  

University Village Solar CarportsUC Berkeley’s Commitment to Using Green Energy, and Less of It

The solar panel installations on campus are one of the ways UC Berkeley is trying to achieve sustainable energy use practices. Under the UC Carbon Neutrality Initiative, the University of California system will be carbon neutral from building energy and fleet vehicle use by the year 2025. To achieve this, UC Berkeley must reduce emissions from current levels by 80% – 118,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide.

Solar panel installations are part of a suite of projects that Cal is working on to make climate neutrality a reality. UC Berkeley is also buying more power generated by wind and solar sources from Pacific Gas & Electric, investing in energy-efficient building retrofits and sustainable transportation practices, and using improved data collection methods to analyze and troubleshoot campus energy use.


There has been a tremendous effort behind the scenes to bring solar power under a power purchase agreement to the UC Berkeley campus.  The Office of Sustainability and Energy has been at the forefront of this effort – bringing the R-REP program to the attention of the campus, coordinating the vendor selections and contracting, working with the campus partners to scope their projects, and ensuring cost effective and technically sound solar PV will operate on the campus for the next 25 years. However, this project would not have been possible without an extensive collaborative effort between many departments and groups across campus. These people have worked through the necessary logistics, asked and answered complex legal and operations questions, and engaged others in their units to help ensure everyone that needed to provide input had the opportunity to so.

Solar Team Members on the MLK Roof