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Projects Updates for Topic: news release

  1. News Release - Solar Farm one year anniversary

    In its first year of commercial operation from December 11, 2015, to December 10, 2016, the Solar Farm generated 7,284 megawatt-hours (MWh) of clean, renewable energy for the Urbana campus, successfully meeting expectations.

    solar farmUnder a 10-year power purchase agreement (PPA) with Phoenix Solar South Farms, LLC, the university acquires all of the power generated by the Solar Farm and all associated renewable energy credits and carbon credits. Notable first-year production achievements of the Solar Farm include:

    • Provided 1.95% of projected FY17 annual electricity consumption1
    • Supplied almost 14% of the campus electrical demand at noon on April 3, 2016
    • Delivered 900 MWh of power to the campus grid in June 2016, the highest month of production
    • Frequently generated over 4 MW of power; system capacity is 4.68 MWac
    • Reduced the campus carbon footprint by more than 6,000 metric tons of CO2e

    The Illinois Climate Action Plan (iCAP), the Urbana campus’ strategic sustainability plan, set a goal of obtaining at least 120,000 MWh of power per year from low-carbon sources by FY20. With the Solar Farm’s electrical production and the university’s wind PPA with Rail Splitter Wind Farm LLC, the campus is 25% of the way toward meeting this goal.

    Hourly information on the Solar Farm’s energy production and impact to campus since first-connected in November 2015 is available at:

  2. News Release - Wind PPA signed

    Associated Project(s): 

    CHAMPAIGN, IL –  A 10-year power purchase agreement (PPA) between Prairieland Energy, Inc., a wholly-owned subsidiary of the University of Illinois, and Rail Splitter Wind Farm LLC, a subsidiary of EDP Renewables (EDPR) North America LLC, will significantly increase the amount of renewable energy used by the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. 

    For 10 years, through October 2026, the Urbana campus will receive a percentage-based portion of the wind-generated electricity and associated environmental attributes from the Rail Splitter Wind Farm located north of Lincoln, Illinois. The PPA specifies that 8.6% of the total wind generation from the farm will be sold to the university, which is expected to be an annual amount of more than 25,000 megawatt-hours (MWh).

    This acquisition of wind power — in conjunction with energy generation from the utility-scale 20.8 acre Solar Farm (7,863 MWh/year) brought online last December, and other solar installations on campus — raises the amount of Urbana campus clean energy to approximately 33,200 MWh/year, or 8.9% percent of projected FY17 annual electricity consumption.

    Director of Utilities & Energy Services Kent Reifsteck said, “Obtaining wind power on this scale is a tremendous next step in diversifying and optimizing the university’s energy portfolio to meet future campus demand for more than 54,000 students, faculty, and staff. This long-term contract for low-carbon energy produced in Illinois reinforces the university’s commitment to achieving sustainability goals and developing partnerships for statewide economic development.”

    Since the Illinois Renewable Portfolio Standard was passed in 2007, EDPR has invested more than $1.5 billion in new Illinois wind farms. EDPR is the largest owner of wind energy in the state with an operating fleet of the Rail Splitter Wind Farm, the Top Crop I & II Wind Farms, and the Twin Groves I & II Wind Farms.

    “The PPA with the University of Illinois marks a new path forward for college campuses to play an important role in building a clean energy future,” Tommy Greer, EDPR Director of Energy & REC Sales, said. “We are excited to partner with the campus on a long-term agreement to produce clean, renewable energy in Illinois. This is the first time we have signed a long-term PPA with a university, and we are eager to see other academic institutions follow Illinois’ lead.”

    The Rail Splitter Wind Farm began commercial operation in 2009 with 100.5 MW of installed capacity, which can power roughly 35,000 average U.S. households. The farm’s annual environmental benefits are equivalent to taking more than 45,000 cars off the road.

    The Illinois Climate Action Plan (iCAP), the Urbana campus’ strategic sustainability plan, contains specific clean energy targets, including an objective to obtain at least 120,000 MWh per year from low-carbon sources by FY20.

    The idea of signing a wind PPA was supported by a formal recommendation from the Energy Generation, Purchasing, and Distribution (EGEN) Sustainability Working Advisory Team (SWATeam). These SWATeams, created by the Institute for Sustainability, Energy, and Environment (iSEE), are charged with tracking progress on the iCAP targets and making recommendations to advance campus sustainability goals.

    The new Provost Fellow for Sustainability, Physics Professor Scott Willenbrock, was previously the chair of the EGEN SWATeam and led the development of the wind PPA recommendation. “It was a natural recommendation to make, but we did not appreciate at the time how nuanced the PPA would be. Many people worked hard to make this a reality,” Willenbrock said.

    Pursuing additional renewable energy projects and power purchase agreements to achieve clean energy targets was one of the recommendations of the Utilities Production and Distribution Master Plan released in September 2015.

    The university is proactively shaping its energy enterprise through improved utility production, distribution, and monitoring methods and systems. Through dedicated energy conservation programs, such as Retrocommissioning, Energy Performance Contracting, campus-wide lighting retrofits, and building system upgrades, the campus has reduced energy consumption by 28% since 2008.

    The university’s good work to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions has allowed the Urbana campus to sell approximately $1.5 million in verified carbon credits since 2014 to fund additional emission reduction and energy conservation projects.

    Wind PPA Factsheet
    Wind PPA news release


  3. Chancellor Signs Resilience Commitment

    Illinois a Green Campus Leader as Chancellor Signs Climate Resilience Commitment

    MARCH 3, 2016 — The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign took on a leadership role to more actively respond to global climate change when Interim Chancellor Barbara Wilson signed Second Nature’s Climate Resilience Commitment in February.

    Illinois is a Charter Signatory of the Second Nature Climate Commitment, which combines a Carbon Commitment the campus signed in 2008 with the newly signed Resilience Commitment. The full Climate Commitment formally acknowledges that the effects of climate change are already felt — and that universities and colleges must pursue both mitigation and adaptation to combat the unfolding crisis.

    By adding the Resilience Commitment, Illinois has made a pledge to evaluate campus vulnerabilities to a changing climate in its landscapes, natural resources, and energy production — and to make an action plan that addresses those weaknesses.

    In 2015, Illinois released an updated Illinois Climate Action Plan (iCAP) reporting its progress toward emissions reduction and other campus sustainability goals and outlining a new path to reaching net zero carbon emissions as soon as possible, but no later than 2050.

    “While the iCAP is a plan for how campus impacts the atmosphere and climate, the resilience plan will be about how the campus reacts to atmosphere and climate change,” said Evan DeLucia, Director of the Institute for Sustainability, Energy, and Environment (iSEE).

    Resilience is a measure of the ability to react to and recover from difficult circumstances. Resilient communities bend but do not break under pressure, he said.

    Wilson, who signed the document Feb. 9, said: “Signing the Resiliency Commitment is a natural extension of our efforts to carefully steward university resources. By planning ahead, we can prepare for a range of potential challenges presented by climate change — whether social, financial, or ecological.

    “We’re positioning ourselves to be the kind of nimble and responsive university that can deliver on our educational and research missions for generations to come.”

    DeLucia said that carrying out the terms of the commitment will create a more holistic picture of sustainability on campus.

    “I think this commitment will make us think about sustainability in a broader way,” he said. “Rather than only asking, ‘How much renewable energy do we use?’ we’ll also be asking ‘Do we have a diverse enough pool of energy resources so that if one fails, the entire system doesn’t fail?’ It will be less about being ‘green’ and more about being truly sustainable.”

    A PDF of the Resilience Commitment — complete with Wilson’s signature — can be viewed on iSEE’s website.
    Second Nature is a nonprofit organization with more than 20 years of experience mobilizing institutions of higher education to lead the way to a more just, healthy, and sustainable society. It sponsors the Climate, Resilience, and Carbon commitments and oversees reporting of the signatory institutions’ progress toward their goals.