CSU, UCCS leading universities’ solar trend

Colorado State University is planning to build the largest solar arrays at a U.S. university, and the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs is the first school in the state to use thin-film solar panels.

CSU’s 15-acre array will be enough to power more than 10 percent of the university’s electric energy needs on the Foothills Campus and is the second solar project to be announced within the CSU System.

CSU-Pueblo dedicated a new 1.2 megawatt solar array last year.

The university is working with Xcel Energy and renewable energy developer, Renewable Ventures, in a public-private partnership to leverage tax credits and incentives to finance the project. The partnership will allow the university to deploy the solar energy under a long-term contract – 20 years – and will purchase the power produced at a fixed rate for that amount of time.

“This is a good deal that is going to save the university money as well as help the environment,” said Carol Dollard, a Colorado State energy engineer. “As part of the agreement, we’ll eventually have the option to purchase the solar panels, which helps Colorado State build its growing reputation as the ‘green’ university.”

In addition, the campus also added a biomass boiler to reduce the university’s greenhouse gas emissions and cut energy costs. The plant will burn wood chips rather than rely solely on natural gas to provide hot water for the Judson M. Harper Research Complex.

The University of Colorado at Colorado Springs also is using solar power. The campus recreation center is a Leadership in Energy Efficiency and Design gold-certified building – one of the first in the nation.

The total cost of the 13.6 kWh system is estimated at $107,000. UCCS received a $25,000 grant from the State of Colorado and anticipates a $39,000 rebate from Colorado Springs Utilities. The balance will be paid for by student fees.

The Science and Engineering Building at UCCS became the first building in the state to have thin-film solar panels, according to Gary Reynolds, executive director of facilities services.

“They look a lot like the 35 millimeter film used to,” Reynolds said. “They are an unobtrusive part of making this newest UCCS building highly efficient.”