ASU to deploy largest university solar installation
ASU has awarded energy contracts to Honeywell Building Systems, Independent Energy Group and SolEquity to install 2 megawatts of solar electric modules on about 135,000 square feet of building rooftop space and some parking structures on its Tempe campus.
With this investment, ASU has reaffirmed its commitment to renewable energy through what will be the largest deployment of solar power infrastructure by any U.S. university. The installation will begin in August, with completion scheduled for December.
The solar panels will meet up to 7 percent of the energy needs for ASU’s Tempe campus. Two megawatts of electricity can run about 4,600 computers. There is no up-front cost for this installation, which will generate about $425,000 worth of energy and reduce ASU’s carbon emissions by 2,825 tons reduction per year as compared to traditional energy generation in the state of Arizona.
The carbon reduction is equivalent to removing the annual emissions of 523 automobiles.
A study by ASU faculty and students in 2004 identified at least 330,000 square feet of roof space suitable for solar-based electricity generation on the Tempe campus alone. Because of the unprecedented expansion of new construction during the past few years, the roof space available for solar panels is now significantly larger.
ASU’s solar energy plan now calls for the installation of up to 7 megawatts on the Tempe campus, with additional installations on ASU’s other campuses over the next several years.
“These large-scale solar installations demonstrate ASU’s commitment to achieving carbon neutrality through on-site renewable energy generation coupled with extensive investment in energy efficiency and conservation” says ASU President Michael Crow. “Long-term, ASU’s integrated research programs and business practices seek to transition energy markets away from fossil-based fuels toward advanced technologies that are economically competitive and environmentally benign.”
Crow serves as chairman of the American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment, an organization dedicated to carbon neutrality that has nearly 600 signatories to date.
Under this new agreement, ASU contracts to buy the power generated on its rooftops at a set price for 15 years. The pricing takes advantage of federal and state tax credits, as well as incentive payments provided by Arizona Public Service as authorized by the Arizona Corporation Commission’s Renewable Energy Standard Ruling.
“I congratulate Dr. Crow and ASU for establishing the university as the national solar leader,” says commissioner Kris Mayes of the Arizona Corporation Commission. “Two megawatts of new distributed solar energy will help diversify Arizona’s energy system, clean our environment and accelerate the growth of a solar energy industry in the state. These are the same objectives sought by the Corporation Commission when it passed the Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard in 2006.”
Carol Campbell, ASU’s executive vice president and chief financial officer, says this deployment illustrates ASU’s aggressive moves to adopt sustainable practices throughout the university, with a goal of achieving carbon neutrality on its four campuses – including water and energy conservation, use of sustainable materials in all facilities, recycling and minimizing waste generation.
The Global Institute of Sustainability is the hub of ASU’s sustainability initiatives. Its director, Jonathan Fink, says that “this investment decision, together with the recent awards of six significant solar energy research and development grants from the U.S. Department of Energy, show that ASU has become a recognized national leader in solar energy. In addition, by requiring that the installations include the ability to collect, analyze, and display their performance data, the university is assuring that students, staff and the public at large will be able to track the amount of energy generated and used. As such, the system is a synergistic merging of research, economic development and education.”
This announcement follows the recent decision by Arizona Public Service to build the largest solar thermal plant in the country.
“For the Sun Devils to become sun users is a sound business decision,” says APS renewable energy manager Barbara Lockwood. “Importantly, ASU’s leadership will have an impact on other large Arizona institutions and businesses considering similar installations. The more renewable energy customers produce, the better APS can manage the extraordinary growth in energy usage throughout the state.”
For the past 15 years, ASU has conducted the only photovoltaic testing laboratory in the United States.
“Arizona’s industry, government, universities and the public are all waking up to the fact that we need to better utilize our abundant solar resources in as many ways as possible,” Fink says.
Fink serves as an expert for the U.S Scientists and Economists Call for Swift and Deep Cuts in Greenhouse Gas Emissions – a group of world-renowned scientists and economists that have convened to make a united appeal about the scientific and economic dimensions of climate change.