The University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign marked the completion of its 12.3 MWDC solar farm by planting native pollinator habitat on the 54-acre property.
The project is the second solar farm built on the U of I and is meeting the clean energy sustainability goals outlined in the University’s Illinois Climate Action Plan, nearly four years ahead of schedule. Clean energy production will now support about 12% of the school’s annual electricity demand.
The solar site will serve as a demonstration and research location for pollinator-friendly solar panels. The solar panel exceeded the required 85 minimum points set by the state’s Pollinator Friendly Solar Site Act, achieving “Provides Exceptional Habitat” status.
The custom seed mix designed by Natural Resource Services features over 21 different plant species native to the area, making the land between and around the panels more resilient and creating a natural habitat for a variety of local and migratory birds and insects . In total, the site will feature more than 6.5 million flowering plants and native grasses.
Solar Farm 2.0 was developed by the national solar energy company Sol Systems, which was built with two-sided solar panels, uniaxial trackers and zero-waste construction practices. Capital Dynamics will serve as owners of the project, while Sol Systems will manage the assets for the 20-year term of the agreement.
“In just four months, Solar Farm 2.0 has already become an integral part of the university’s energy company,” says Mohamed Attalla, Director of Facilities & Services. “There are days when the array supplies nearly 30% of the university’s electricity needs that day. It was extraordinary to see this site’s renewable energy having an immediate impact on learning and discovery on campus. “
Combined with other on-campus solar installations, the Urbana campus now generates approximately 27,000 MWh / year, placing UIUC in third place among US universities for on-site clean energy production.
You or I purchase all of the energy produced by the array under a Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) at a fixed price over a 20-year term. In addition to the long-term fixed rate, the PPA let the university go solar at no upfront cost, saving $ 300,000 in the first year alone.
“The use of innovative technology and land use practices and a strong, ongoing collaboration between Sol Systems and the University of Illinois are what make this project so remarkable,” said William Graves, director of originations at Sol Systems. “Solar Farm 2.0 is not only a major project for the university, but also for the state of Illinois.”
Indiana-based Inovateus Solar built the solar panels.
“Inovateus Solar is really excited to partner with Sol Systems and contribute our best practices for sustainable solar construction. We believe this solar park will be the new role model for the ultra-sustainable development of solar energy, ”said TJ Kanczuzewski, CEO of Inovateus Solar. “We are also proud to have assisted U of I in achieving an important sustainability goal for the campus. Helping protect the environment for current and future students and educators directly reflects our corporate mission to ‘build a bright future’. ”
Sol Systems and Inovateus worked with students from the Institute for Sustainability, Energy, and Environment campus-wide sustainability minor to assess Solar Farm 2.0’s carbon footprint from procurement to installation. Sol Systems will use the reports prepared by the student groups as part of their cornerstone of the Sustainability, Energy and Environment Fellows program to assess potential sustainability improvements for all future projects.
News item from Sol Systems
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