UMass solar energy initiative to install new solar panels and provide electrical power at discounted rates
A solar energy initiative by the University of Massachusetts will have 15,576 solar panels newly installed to provide electrical power by the end of 2016. This initiative aims to save electricity costs for the University by $6.2 million in a span of 20 years.
There will be eight total solar panel installations, with six of them placed on rooftops and the other two placed above parking lots. The rooftops are those of the Recreation Center, John Francis Kennedy Champions Center, Fine Arts Center, Fleet Garage (bus maintenance garage), UMass Police station and the computer science department buildings. The two parking lots receiving the new panels are lots 25 and 45, and are expected to occupy 11.6 acres of space.
The total amount of electricity generated by these panels per year is roughly equal to the amount of energy used by 900 Massachusetts homes per year.
“The cost of the solar power is constant, thus the savings is greater during hours of peak demand,” said Larry Rivais, an associate editor for the UMass News and Relations office. “Photovoltaic units on campus will significantly reduce peak charges by as much as 50 percent per month,” he added, using a more technical term for these types of solar panels.
The electrical power produced by the panels is expected to bring greater savings at the peak of electricity demand, during the mid-day when solar panels absorb the greatest amount of energy from the sun. At this peak, electricity rates normally rise, discouraging customers from using more electricity.
The university is expecting to save $89,000 in electricity for the first year, and on average the savings are also expected to grow to $310,000 per year. For now, these panels are expected to provide 22 percent of the total energy for the University’s needs, while the other 78 percent will still come from the Central Heating Plant (CHP) on campus.
The university has partnered with a national energy company, Brightergy of Charlestown, Massachusetts, and partnered with Sol Systems to lead the construction and engineering of the panels. ConEdison Solutions is another company arranging the financing, maintenance and ownership of panel installation. The electricity from this $16 million project will be bought by the university from ConEdison Solutions for usage on campus.
An organizer from Divest UMass, an active organization that successfully advocated for the UMass Foundation to divest from fossil fuels in the spring, welcomed the initiative.
“We are happy that UMass is investing in more renewable and sustainable energy solutions—not just because they are cleaner for the environment, but this investment further weakens the fiscal support of the destructive and exploitative fossil fuel industry,” said Mica Reel, a spokesperson for Divest UMass. “Renewable energy is a small step in the right direction and we will continue to push UMass to invest in policies, systems and projects that push for justice for the Commonwealth and beyond.”
As part of UMass Amherst’s continual commitment to creating a green and sustainable campus environment relying on renewable energy, it hopes to become carbon neutral by 2050.
Tanaya M. Asnani can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.