For those of you who don’t already know, REC Solar was actually founded by two Cal Poly graduates back in 1997 – Judy Staley & Fred Sisson. With the help of a few other high-achieving individuals, most of them also Cal Poly graduates, they propped their small business up in a little office out in Los Osos. Back in those early days, REC was little more than a handful of passionate people with a vision of changing the world for the better. And now here we are, 20 years later. REC Solar has become a leading commercial providers of renewable energy solutions throughout the nation; we’re now backed and fully owned by Duke Energy, one of the largest and most reputable companies in the entire energy industry.
Our relationship with Cal Poly has been absolutely integral to this success. More than half of our current departmental directors are Cal Poly graduates. Our offices are filled with some of the greatest minds in the solar industry, those same minds that were challenged, fed, and honed right here at Cal Poly. So when we caught wind of this project developing, we jumped at the golden opportunity to give back to the University from whence we came. This system erected all around us was developed, designed, built, and will now be maintained, by some of Cal Poly’s finest.
For me personally, this project is a particular honor, by which I am truly humbled. I came to Cal Poly back in 2007 to join the graduate program within the Engineering Department, where I earned a Master’s degree in Electrical Engineering before joining REC Solar. I had the privilege of writing my Senior Thesis under Dr. Ali Shaban, which covered the effects of distributed generation and the changing paradigms of the electric grid. As the case study for that thesis, I worked with Dennis Elliot here to develop a simulated model of Cal Poly’s entire electrical infrastructure, and then studied how it might one day become a Net Zero Energy campus through the implementation of renewable energy generation. Back then, this was basically just a theory to me. An aspiration of what could be. And yet here we are, not more than a decade later, and I stand in the midst of a myriad of solar panels that will provide Cal Poly with cheaper, cleaner energy for the years to come. This is a tremendous milestone – for me, for REC & Duke Energy Renewables, for Cal Poly & all of CSU, and for the entire San Luis Obispo community.
In addition to the direct benefits this solar farm brings, REC Solar is collaborating with Cal Poly to build a renewable energies laboratory that will be integrated with the Engineering building on campus. With the integration of this lab, an internship program, guest lectures, and site tours of this facility for students, our organizations will together be able to continually foster awareness and innovation in renewable energy education.
The fruition of this project is a stepping stone to building a brighter & more sustainable future. Through the courage of its leadership, and the passion of its personnel, the California State University system has become a national leader in environmental stewardship, demonstrated by its sustainability initiatives and its mission of empowering young minds with the abilities they need to make a difference. REC Solar and Duke Energy Renewables are honored to be trusted as a partner in these endeavors. We will continue to innovate transformative solutions to help manifest the vision driven by CSU for all 23 of its campuses. With over a century of leadership experience that CSU and Duke Energy each carry in their respective fields, the collaborations we embark on together will undoubtedly embolden successes for generations to come. I am humbled and honored to be able to play my small role in this mission, and I thank everyone else whose contributions make all of this possible.
To read more about the Cal Poly solar project, read the press release here.