Public Sector


Hartnell College

Hartnell College

The Opportunity

Founded in in 1920, Hartnell College serves the higher education and workforce needs of the Salinas Valley. Its award-winning science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) programs put area students on course to transfer to world-class universities. College leaders strive for their graduates to use their educational experiences at Hartnell to sow the seeds for their future contributions to the entire Salinas community.

In 2007, Hartnell College established the Center for Sustainable Design and Construction to educate its students in the design and building of homes, schools, parks, and commercial buildings of the future with sustainable practices and green materials. Hartnell has been a model of bringing together resources from the private sector, government and the skilled construction trades to accomplish its educational mission.

Expanding on its commitment of a sustainable campus, Hartnell College partnered with OpTerra Energy Services to design and install over half a megawatt of solar photovoltaic (PV) generating capacity at the Alisal campus. College leaders were also interested in upgrading lighting and HVAC systems, in addition to installing a more economical energy management system (EMS) to make their facilities run as efficiently as possible, while achieving optimal cost savings.

The Partnership

Leaders at Hartnell College have integrated the solar energy project into existing education and career training programs. Now in its third year, this program connects the large-scale solar and energy efficiency project with the curriculum. Construction of the solar canopies provided students with a real-world case study in sustainable design and construction. The solar PV system also serves as a Living Laboratory for the College’s engineering program, where a partnership with UC Santa Cruz is helping integrate sustainable energy into science and math courses.

The educational partnership between Hartnell College and OpTerra is particularly unique, with a variety of activities engaging students in sustainability and clean tech. To attract students to the possibility of STEM careers, the OpTerra team has attended career days, led students in job shadowing and hired an engineering student intern from Hartnell. In addition, many Hartnell students participated in hands-on, experiential learning opportunities including organizing a physics/STEM exhibit for the Salinas community and leading STEM research projects, bringing the campus improvements to life and promoting energy consciousness among students.

OpTerra took on the challenge of finance assistance for the multiphase project by helping Hartnell take out a 0% California Energy Commission (CEC) loan, allowing for the installation of approximately $3 million worth of solar power. This project helps to ensure a healthy financial future to the College by saving more than $1 million in interest costs.

The Educational Partnership

  • Career Exploration
      Hartnell students shadowed STEM experts, participated in OpTerra-facilitated career discussions, and gained guidance from OpTerra Professionals.
  • Hands-On Learning
      Using solar panels donated by OpTerra, Hartnell students created a Zero Net Energy (ZNE) pocket house.
  • Community Engagement
      With the support and guidance of OpTerra education experts, Hartnell students designed and managed a hands-on education exhibit for visiting Salinas students.
  • Student-led STEM Research
      Students designed STEM research projects focusing on campus lighting upgrades and wind data. Students had the opportunity to present their research at the 2014 Hartnell STEM Symposium.
  • Energy Engineering Internship
      OpTerra hired Hartnell engineering student, Frank Osorio, as part of the STEM internship program, providing a real-world experience working in an engineering environment

The Impact

In addition to the $9.5 million in savings and the remarkable 93 percent reduction in yearly electrical energy use, the project also offsets 348 metric tons of CO2, the equivalent to removing 72 cars from the road each year. The project provides opportunities for students to learn about green technology and demonstrates Hartnell’s fiscal stewardship and environmental commitment.

The Technical Scope

  • Alisal Campus
      - 543-kWh solar PV system on parking canopy structures
  • Main Campus
      - LED Lighting
      - HVAC retrofit
      - Boiler upgrades
      - Energy management system
      - Solar PV system (in construction)
  • King City Campus
      - LED Lighting