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Project Updates for collection: Renewable Energy Projects
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Today, the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, Facilities & Services (F&S) announces the final stage of completion for Solar Farm 2.0, totaling 12.3 megawatts (DC), with the planting phase of the farm’s pollinator habitat commencing this month. The project is the second solar farm constructed at the U of I and achieves clean energy sustainability goals outlined in the university’s Illinois Climate Action Plan (iCAP), nearly four years ahead of schedule. Clean energy production will now support approximately 12 percent of the school’s annual electricity demand. The planting of the project’s native pollinator habitat bookmarks the solar farm’s unique array of state-of-the-art technological and sustainable features.
The site’s 54 acres will serve as a major demonstration and research location for pollinator-friendly solar arrays. The University of Illinois Solar Farm 2.0 project exceeded the required 85 minimum points established by the State of Illinois’ Pollinator Friendly Solar Site Act. With 134 points achieved on the pollinator scorecard, including the adjacent landscape buffer, the solar array officially “Provides Exceptional Habitat.” The custom seed mix designed by Natural Resource Services, with more than 21 different plant types that are native to the area, will make the land between and around the panels more resilient and create a natural habitat for a variety of local and migratory birds and beneficial insects. In total, the site will contain more than 6.5 million flowering plants and native grasses.
Solar Farm 2.0 was developed by national solar energy firm Sol Systems, which built the farm with innovative features such as bifacial solar panels, single-axis trackers, pollinator habitat, and zero waste construction practices. This project is among the most technologically advanced and sustainable solar projects in the U.S. Through the firm’s development wing, Sol Customer Solutions, a joint venture between Sol Systems and Capital Dynamics, Capital Dynamics will serve as owners of the project with Sol Systems managing the asset throughout the 20-year term of the agreement.
F&S Executive Director Dr. Mohamed Attalla said, “In only four months, Solar Farm 2.0 has already become an integral part of the university’s energy enterprise. There are days when the array is meeting almost 30 percent of the university’s electrical demand for that day. It has been extraordinary to watch this site’s renewable energy make an immediate impact to support learning and discovery across campus.”
Since the array was energized on January 29, 2021, the installation has produced over 4,000 megawatt hours (MWh). On May 1, Solar Farm 2.0 provided its largest output of 102 MWh in a single day, enough to offset the consumption of more than 8,000 gallons of gasoline. This installation puts the university at the top of the list for onsite clean energy production, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. In combination with other solar installations on campus, the Urbana campus is now generating approximately 27,000 MWh/year, ranking UIUC third amongst U.S. universities in onsite clean power production.
The University will purchase all 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, which hedges UIUC against future utility price uncertainty, the PPA allows the university to go solar with no upfront costs, providing an expected $300,000 in savings in the first year alone.
“The use of innovative technology and land-use practices and strong, ongoing partnership between Sol Systems and the University of Illinois is what makes this project so remarkable,” said William Graves, Director of Originations at Sol Systems. “Solar Farm 2.0 is a marquee project not only for the university but also for the state of Illinois.”
Sol Systems partnered with South Bend, Indiana-based Inovateus Solar, which constructed the solar arrays. Inovateus used reduced-waste construction practices that prevented as much as 45 tons of materials from reaching landfills. Specifically, Inovateus worked with F&S Waste Management to recycle nearly 94 percent of the project’s construction packaging, plastics, wood pallets, and other refuse.
“Inovateus Solar is truly excited to have partnered with Sol Systems and contributed our best practices for sustainable solar construction. We believe this solar farm will be the new role model for ultra-sustainable solar development,” said T.J. Kanczuzewski, CEO of Inovateus Solar. “We're also proud to have assisted U of I in meeting an important sustainability goal for the campus. Helping to preserve the environment for current and future students and faculty directly reflects our company mission of ‘building a brilliant tomorrow.’’’
Academic collaboration is a major theme emphasized in the F&S Strategic Plan because using the campus as a living learning laboratory for students and researchers is essential to the success of the university. Sol Systems and Inovateus worked with students in the Institute for Sustainability, Energy, and Environment’s campuswide sustainability minor to assess the carbon footprint of Solar Farm 2.0 from sourcing to installation. Sol Systems will use the reports, produced by the student groups as part of their Sustainability, Energy and Environment Fellows Program capstone, to assess potential sustainability improvements to all future projects.
The University hopes to offer onsite tours this fall, along with a celebratory ribbon-cutting for the project.
University of Illinois Contact:
Customer Relations & Communications
Facilities & Services
Sol Systems Contact:
Manager, Marketing and Communications
ABOUT FACILITIES & SERVICES AT THE UNIVERSITY OF ILLINOIS URBANA-CHAMPAIGN
Facilities & Services (F&S), at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, provides all physical plant, operational, and essential services for sustaining an environment that fosters research, teaching, and public engagement activities. F&S supports the university’s education, research, and outreach missions by improving the physical condition of the facilities and grounds through construction and building maintenance activities, providing utilities production and distribution, implementing energy conservation initiatives, and increasing customer satisfaction by delivering quality services in a responsive, reliable, and customer-focused manner. Visit www.fs.illinois.edu to learn more.
ABOUT SOL SYSTEMS
Sol Systems is a leading national solar energy firm with an established reputation for integrity and reliability across its development, infrastructure and environmental commodity businesses. To date, Sol has developed and/or financed over 1 GW of solar projects valued at more than $1 billion for Fortune 100 companies, municipalities, counties, utilities, universities and schools. The company also actively shapes and trades in environmental commodity and electricity markets throughout the United States. The company was founded in 2008, is based in Washington, D.C., and is led by its founder. Sol Systems works with its team, partners, and clients to create a more sustainable future we can all believe in. For more information, visit https://www.solsystems.com/.
ABOUT CAPITAL DYNAMICS
Capital Dynamics is an independent global asset management firm focusing on private assets including private equity, private credit and clean energy infrastructure.
Capital Dynamics’ Clean Energy Infrastructure is one of the largest renewable energy investment managers in the world with USD 6.6 billion AUM and has one of the longest track records in the industry. The CEI strategy was established to capture attractive investment opportunities in the largest and fastest growing sector of global infrastructure – proven renewable energy technologies, primarily in North America and Europe, across solar, onshore wind, energy storage and related infrastructure with a focus on both utility-scale and distributed generation technologies. The CEI platform’s fully-integrated asset management affiliate provides highly-specialized services to ensure optimal performance and value from projects. The CEI strategy currently manages 7.9 GWdc of contracted gross power generation across more than 150 projects in the United States and Europe, and is one of the top 3 global solar PV owners.
As a sustainable asset manager, we have gone beyond standard ESG requirements by designing, implementing and trademarking the Capital Dynamics R-Eye™ Rating System – a unique, best-in-class approach to diligence and rating of each investment based on PRI principles and UN Sustainable Development Goals. Since Capital Dynamics’ Clean Energy Infrastructure platform’s inception in 2010, over 19 million metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions have been avoided as a result of the firm’s renewable investments. This is equivalent to the power needed to supply more than 3 million homes or passenger vehicles for one year.
In 2020, the CEI strategy received top rankings from GRESB (the ESG benchmark for real assets) for commitment to sustainability, and in 2019 awarded Global PE Energy Firm of the Year by Private Equity International. For more information, please visit: www.capdyn.com.
ABOUT INOVATEUS SOLAR
Inovateus Solar is a leading solar and energy storage development, EPC (engineering, procurement, and construction), and supply company in the Midwest United States. Headquartered in South Bend, Indiana, the company has built over 500 MW of utility, commercial, industrial, and education sector solar projects. With deep roots in the communities that it serves, Inovateus has been a strong employer and invested millions of dollars in the Indiana economy in support of its commitment to invest in the energy future of its clients.Attached Files:
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The site’s 54 acres will serve as a major demonstration and research location for pollinator-friendly solar arrays. The University of Illinois Solar Farm 2.0 project exceeded the required 85 minimum points established by the State of Illinois’ Pollinator Friendly Solar Site Act. With 134 points achieved on the pollinator scorecard, including the adjacent landscape buffer, the solar array officially “Provides Exceptional Habitat.” The custom seed mix designed by Natural Resource Services, with more than 21 different plant types that are native to the area, will make the land between and around the panels more resilient and create a natural habitat for a variety of local and migratory birds and beneficial insects. In total, the site will contain more than 6.5 million flowering plants and native grasses.Attached Files:
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Morgan White with Facilities and Services, Sustainability, spoke with Stevie Jay and Diane Ducey on May 10, 2021 on ESPN radio 93.5. They discussed the new Campus Instructional Facility geothermal system, other clean energy projects on campus, and the local Geothermal Urbana-Champaign program.
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Facilities & Services and the Prairie Research Institute are going to share CIF geothermal information with an ASHRAE research study, looking into long-term temperatures for ground heat exchangers and comparing measurements with models commonly used in the industry.
A team of researchers will be measuring the impact of natural vegetation at the Solar Farm 2.0 grounds. Below the 31,122 bi-facial solar panels lie 54 acres perfect for pollinator-friendly plantings.
But how exactly does one calculate the plants’ effectiveness? How about: count the bugs.
Ben Campbell, an energy engineer at the University of Illinois Chicago, is part of a research effort that will do exactly that, and more. Their research will also address other matters at Solar Farm 2.0, including how the pollinator plants affect the efficiency of the solar panels’ power production, and how quickly and strongly the pollinator plantings grow.
Additionally, F&S Utilities & Energy Services are a support team member for the research project which will study the economic and ecological benefits of planting native and other flowering plants under and around solar arrays. In order to count the bugs, a few times a year researchers will catch flying insects over the course of a day. The insects they collect will be taken to the Bee Research Facility on the Urbana campus where they will be identified and archived, under the guidance of Dr. Adam Dolezal.
This might seem standard practice for a new test site with new plantings. What may surprise the reader is another research question: where and how many birds and bats will come around for feeding time?
“The research is driven by the solar industry’s questions about the colocation of solar power production and pollinator habitat,” said Campbell. “Our research seeks to understand what scale of habitat is necessary to have measurable impacts on pollinator, bird, and bat populations at utility-scale solar facilities, in addition to benefits in terms of increased power production or lifecycle costs of managing vegetation. We are excited to have the opportunity to test these questions in our own backyard at Solar Farm 2.0.”
Using acoustic and ultrasonic recorders, the team will record bird and bat abundance and diversity, respectively, over time, measuring wildlife elements until at least 2023.
The research project, led by Iris Caldwell at the Energy Resources Center at University of Illinois Chicago, is funded by the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Energy Technology Office. Her research team consists of the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, UIC, the Argonne National Laboratory, and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory. Six solar facility test sites have been selected for field research across Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, and Wisconsin. This includes the 12 MW Solar Farm 2.0 facility at UIUC. In partnership with F&S and Sol Systems (the site operator) the research team will evaluate the effects of the pollinator plantings on photovoltaic and ecological performance and compare operational costs with facilities that use conventional ground cover (usually turf grass). In addition, Solar Farm 1.0 may be used as a control site for comparison for performance and pollinator observation.Attached Files:
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On May 10, 2021, Morgan White joined Stevie Jay Broadcasting to talk about renewable energy in the Champaign-Urbana community. In this 7 minute podcast, Morgan spoke about solar and geothermal energy initiatives by F&S and beyond!
Listen to the podcast in the attached files!Attached Files:
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Construction of a new 54-acre, 12.32 megawatt (MWdc) Solar Farm has been approved by the University of Illinois Board of Trustees as the sole member of Prairieland Energy, Inc. Referred to as "Solar Farm 2.0," the new utility-scale array will be located north of Curtis Road, between First Street and Dunlap Avenue near Savoy. Solar Farm 2.0 will produce approximately 20,000 megawatt-hours per year (MWh/year), nearly tripling the university’s existing on-site renewable energy generation. Completion of this project will then grant the University of Illinois with the title of being the third-largest user of renewable power generated on-site for all higher education facilities in the entire country.
In April 2017, the Energy Sustainability Working Advisory Team (SWATeam) recommended that to increase our campus’ generation of solar power, either an extension should be built onto the original Solar Farm or additional solar panels be installed across campus rooftops. From there, the idea of Solar Farm 2.0 was born. In November of that same year, the Sustainability Council approved the concept of this new solar farm, and a site selection was completed during spring 2018.
In the summer of 2018, after discussions with our neighbors in Savoy, the Chancellor’s Capital Review Committee approved the location, and a request for proposals was initiated. Different vendors from across the nation submitted proposals and various designs for this new solar farm, with nineteen submissions in total. By May of 2019, Sol Systems of Washington, D.C. was chosen to complete the project. A twenty-year contract was negotiated, and the overall project is on track to be completed by the end of 2020.
Sol Systems will be responsible for the design, construction, and maintenance for Solar Farm 2.0, and like Solar Farm 1.0, the Urbana campus will use all the generated power. The $20.1M contract is anticipated to save the university $300,000 in the farm’s first year compared to electricity purchased from the wholesale MISO market. Prairieland Energy will buy the solar energy at a fixed rate of $45.99 per MWh, while the University of Illinois will receive the associated renewable energy certificates (RECs) and the right to claim the use of clean energy.
Other innovative features of Solar Farm 2.0 include the incorporation of a pollinator habitat located beneath the panels. Indigenous plants will be planted throughout the farm to welcome local and migratory birds and insects. Specifically targeted towards butterflies and bees, Solar Farm 2.0 will be a welcoming environment for wildlife, as well as being a demonstration site for meeting the requirements of the Pollinator Friendly Solar Site Act. A landscaped buffer will also be included in the final design of Solar Farm 2.0, creating visual screening of the solar panels along the south edge of the farm bordering Savoy.
The largest geothermal energy system on campus came online last month at the Campus Instructional Facility, a $75M state-of-the-art building that will support transformative learning and teaching environments. The system has "enough capacity to handle the energy needed for approximately 30 American homes."
The Solar Farm 2.0 developer will be planting the Solar Farm 2.0 site next week. On May 7, 2021, they will spray an herbicide mixture to prepare the site.Here are the details they provided:
Glyphosate 41 herbicide and/or Ranger Pro. They are both generic glyphosate-based herbicides. Ranger Pro includes a water-based surfactant in their formulation. We will be adding a methylated seed oil for a surfactant. We will not be using a spray dye in the mix to avoid residue on the panels.
When built, the University of Illinois Campus Instructional Facility (CIF) will be a four-story building dedicated to academic and classroom use. CIF will serve 31,000 students daily and will leverage sustainable design to decrease its carbon emissions. The ground source heat exchange system will consist of approximately 60 wells arrayed under the John Bardeen Quad. It will be designed to be expandable, with the ability to be connected to other buildings, allowing for multiple phases. This SSC grant covers approximately 13% of the cost of the geothermal system, and this building project is the first public-private partnership on campus. As the campus works towards being carbon neutral by 2050, this project will not only reduce UIUC’s reliance on fossil fuels, but pave the way for new construction projects to use geothermal systems on campus.
The CIF Geothermal loop has a mixture of 30% glycol to 70% water.
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Thank you for a great Earth Week, Illini! Here a few highlights:
- SSC hosted an Environmental Quad Day
- Climate Strike on the Quad
- Virtual open house for campus solar
- Illini Union Pretzels + Plants and recycling center launch
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The attached file shows the production of the new rooftop solar panels on BIF from June 2019 to March 2021. It also includes the approximate reduction in carbon emissions and the equivalent number of "trees saved."Attached Files:
Happy Earth Day, 2021!!!
Welcome to the UIUC Solar Sites Open House!
- Nine campus solar power installations are available to visit at this virtual open house.
- Contact people for each site are standing on the yellow stars by their facility, on Earth Day from 9-10:30 AM.
- There are also links for further information about each solar site.
Hints for Using Topia
- Zoom out on your browser to see more of the campus at once.
- Click on a destination to move your avatar to that site, or use the arrow keys to navigate
- Send messages in Topia to people you meet here, with the mailbox icons.
***MAKE SURE TO USE GOOGLE CHROME AS YOUR BROWSER***
Invitation - Open to All
Ever wonder how far the university has come in solar energy use? Come out to the UIUC Solar Sites Open House hosted on Topia, an interactive online platform, to learn about different buildings and areas across campus that are producing solar energy! During the Open House, contacts for each location will be available to answer questions about the solar installations at nine locations. Learn more about the amazing solar installations on campus!
This event will take place online from 9-10:30 a.m. on Thursday, April 22 (Earth Day!), at https://topia.io/uiuc-solar-sites.*
***MAKE SURE TO USE GOOGLE CHROME AS YOUR BROWSER***Attached Files:
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The new 12.5 kW array will be the second rooftop installation at the facility. The current array, on top of Deloitte Auditorium, produces about 41,000 kilowatt-hours (kWh) annually, – or about 3.4% of the electricity needed to power BIF for an entire year. The new array will be smaller but will supply enough power to offset the anticipated energy usage of the fourth floor addition by contributing 15,500 kWh per year.
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The new ECE building is designed to include Solar Panels on its roof. The panels will provide about 11% of the building's energy needs. The infrastructure for connecting these panels to the building electric supply was included in the original design and construction costs for the full building, while the solar panels themselves were funded separately. This specific project is to have a series of photovoltaic solar arrays on the roof of the building with a 300 kW peak power rating, capable of generating an estimated 470 MWh of electricity annually. (This project is distinct and separate from the project to install solar panels on the roof of the North Campus Parking Deck.) The scope of the project is to provide a structure located on the existing roof of the ECE Building which will support 950 solar panels and provide all components to connect them to the building electrical system for a fully operational system
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The Illinois Solar Decathlon team has completed construction of the innovative ADAPTHAUS and is planning an inauguration event. To learn more about this project, visit some of the many links below:
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Earth Month is here! Can you believe it? I would like to first draw your attention to the iSEE Sustainability Calendar as a reference point for the many virtual and in-person events (maintaining COVID-19 safety and social distancing precautions) held this month and beyond. If you notice a missing event on the calendar, there is a link to submit an event yourself.
Here are a few highlights:
- TED Talk: Eco-Edition series - iSEE’s second TED Talk: Eco-Edition event, will be held from 7 – 8 PM CST, March 30. To complement our recent Plastic Free Challenge, this gathering will focus on plastic waste. Participants will view a prerecorded TED Talk, presented in September 2019 by Andrew Forrest: "A Radical Plan to End Plastic Waste." Afterward, all are invited to participate in a guided discussion and roundtable, hosted by Maddy Liberman (NRES/F&S Intern) and Shantanu Pai (ISTC/F&S). Registration is required; sign up here.
- iSEE Congress – “The Future of Water”, April 6, 14, 20, 23 at noon. Over a series of Zoom webinars, iSEE Congress – Spring 2021 brings together a diverse group of researchers, educators, journalists, and activists to dive deeper into the topic. Our modified “teach-in” will introduce the Illinois campus and community to cutting-edge thinking from highly influential scholars on topics ranging from drought to the global politics of water to pollution, public health, and biodiversity.
- Trash pickup event at Boneyard Creek, sponsored by iSEE and F&S, April 7, 3-5 PM. We will meet at 3 PM behind Engineering Hall and disperse from there (maintaining COVID-19 safety and social distancing precautions). Drop in and stay as long as you are able. Bags and supplies will be provided. More details here.
- Sustainability Rocks on the Main Quad, April 8, 11 AM – 5 PM. Come paint a rock outside the Union with a sustainability/environmental theme (maintaining COVID-19 safety and social distancing precautions). Bring your own rock, or use one of ours! After you finish creating your rock, place it somewhere around campus for others to find! More details here.
- Careers in Sustainability Panel Discussion (virtual), April 9, 12 – PM. Interested in careers in sustainability? Join us to hear a panel discussion from industry professionals and learn how the field is changing and how to pursue a career in sustainability. Registration is required; sign up here.
- Facilities & Services hosts a Virtual Open House of UIUC Solar Sites on Earth Day, April 22, 9 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. April 22 on Topia (must use a computer, not a smart phone), Click this link to attend the Open House
- TED Talk: Eco-Edition series – Earth Month, April 29, 7 – 8 PM. In celebration of Earth Month, this month’s topic will focus on environmental activism and action with a discussion hosted by iSEE Communications Intern and Earth, Society, & Environmental Sustainability student, Maria Maring. Registration is required; sign up here.
- UIUC Arbor Day Celebration at CCNet, April 30, at Noon, on Zoom, Click this link at noon on Arbor Day to join the CCNet Zoom call
We invite you to participate in any of the above opportunities (or celebrate in your own way!) to get “Caught Green-Handed!” this Earth Month! Get featured . . . Click here to let us know how you’re celebrating the Earth. Please reach out if you have any questions. Be sure to sign up for the iSEE newsletter to stay up-to-date on more sustainability opportunities. Have a great Earth Month (and don’t forget to continue the momentum beyond April)!
Check it out: