Campus Energy Programs

Colorado U Adds Solar to Three Buildings

The University of Colorado at Boulder, which has installed solar panels on the roofs of three buildings, said it expects to produce 140,000 kilowatt-hours of energy per year--enough to power 20 medium-sized houses. The solar energy will go back into the buildings that hold the panels.

The university has teamed up with Rockwell Financial Group of Centennial, CO, which provided the panels in order to receive monetary incentives, some of which the institution isn't eligible for because of its tax-exempt status.

"This project had specific financing goals on top of our continued campus sustainability objectives," said Moe Tabrizi, U Colorado Boulder's energy conservation officer. "The university is not a tax entity, and, if we would have done this project on our own, we would have left a significant rebate, tax credits, and a depreciation deal on the table."

Rockwell Financial Group receives a one-time, per kilowatt-hour installation rebate from utility company Xcel Energy amounting to $200,000, as well as federal tax credits and depreciation charges. The company also has the opportunity to sell unused solar power back to Xcel Energy at a premium rate of 11.5 cents per kilowatt-hour. However, all solar power generated by the panels is slated to be used by the campus at this time.

The university will have the option of purchasing the solar panels in seven years for a portion of their original cost and also will be able to sell unused solar power back to Xcel Energy.

A conference center and housing system maintenance center each received 210 solar panels. A law building received 52 solar panels. Tabrizi is working toward solar panel installations on every flat roof on campus, but Xcel Energy limits the amount of incentives accrued by one property. The university is negotiating for more installations on buildings located off the main campus.

"CU-Boulder's solar panels are another step in reaching the carbon reduction goals we've set over the years," said Tabrizi. "From the [American College and] University Presidents' Climate Commitment in 2007, the Colorado governor's "Greening of State Government" executive order in 2007, and our own carbon neutrality plan set last fall, along with the ongoing support of Frank Bruno, vice chancellor for administration, we are moving forward on reducing our nonrenewable energy consumption 20 percent by 2012."

Suntech Power manufactured the solar panels and Bella Energy carried out the project design and installation, which was completed over eight days in November and December 2009. The project was overseen by a university project management and engineering team.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a writer who covers technology and business for a number of publications. Contact her at dian@dischaffhauser.com.

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