Palo Alto, Calif.-based Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) and Foster City, Calif.-based SolarCity recently announced a project that will install a 187kW solar photovoltaic (PV) research system at the institute's headquarters.

The SolarCity PV rooftop system is expected to produce more than 7.3 million kWh over the next 30 years and offset about 11% of EPRI's annual power usage at its four-building research campus. When completed in mid-August, it will be the second largest solar installation in Palo Alto.

The PV array will facilitate EPRI's research on a low-carbon generation portfolio in which solar and other renewables, such as wind and biomass, will play an increasing role in the future. It is expected to provide real-time data on electricity generated that will be used to measure the impact of variability on a distribution system. Additionally, it will supply power-quality data that could be used for distribution circuit analysis and assessment of optimized performance levels.

"The SolarCity system will help us better understand distributed resources and how we can reliably integrate them into distribution systems," says EPRI President and CEO Steve Specker. "This project is a key part of our sustainability program to reduce our carbon footprint, and clearly demonstrates how we can address environmental goals in a cost-effective manner."

SolarCity estimates that over the next 30 years, the system will offset the production of more than 4.6 million pounds of carbon dioxide, a leading contributor to climate change. It is also expected to offset the release of significant amounts of compounds and particulates that contribute to smog, acid rain and can cause asthma and other respiratory ailments. The system will be financed through a power purchase agreement with SolarCity.

"Our goal at SolarCity is to make solar a more widely used source of U.S. electricity generation," says SolarCity CEO Lyndon Rive. "EPRI's adoption and study of its solar energy system can teach us important lessons about how solar can complement the utility grid and how best to mitigate the effects of variable weather conditions. We are honored to be selected for such an effort."

In May, EPRI joined the Solar Technology Acceleration Center (SolarTAC), Aurora, Colo., where members test, validate and demonstrate advanced solar technologies. EPRI is actively pursuing research on two demonstration projects using solar thermal energy in conjunction with traditional fossil generation sources.