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Projects Updates for Solar Farm 1.0

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  1. Acknowledgement and Confirmation

    Associated Project(s): 

    Anthony Spurlock wants to discuss the buyout options after 7 or 10 years, the determination of fair market value, and the ongoing maintenance requirements for Solar Farm 1.0 by the end of the year with Rockwell Finance. 

    Allen Wilson from Rockwell Finance sent an Acknowledgement and Confirmation with respect to Solar Farm 1.0 for the University's Board of Trustees' review and signature. The original financial partner (MB Bank) was acquired by Fifth Third Bank. The asset is being discussed with Fifth Third and being moved to Fifth Third's solar financing program and Wilmington Trust is being incorporated as a trustee for the project. 

  2. FY21 Green Power Partnership Renewed

    F&S completed the renewal of our recognition as a Green Power Partner through the US Environmental Protection Agency. Green Power Partners of our scale now have to use renewable power for seven percent of their annual consumption. Fortunately, the FY21 green power supply for FY21 was 9%, which is a +1.72% increase from the FY19 supply of 7.28%. See attached file.

    Overview submitted: 

    The University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) is proud of its sustainability initiatives and success in achieving Illinois Climate Action Plan (iCAP) goals (https://icap.sustainability.illinois.edu/). The iCAP is the university’s strategic plan to meet the Climate Leadership Commitments, including being carbon neutral as soon as possible and building resilience to climate change in the local community.

    The Urbana campus on-site renewable energy portfolio meets more than 12 percent of annual electricity needs (https://fs.illinois.edu/services/utilities-energy/production/renewable-e...). UIUC’s Solar Farm 2.0 was energized in January 2021, producing 20,000 MWh/year. Combined with Solar Farm 1.0 and other rooftop and ground-mounted solar installations, the Urbana campus generates more than 27,000 MWh/year, ranking UIUC third amongst U.S. universities in on-site clean power production. Incorporating renewable energy continues to be a focus of new facility construction and major renovation projects. Most notably, the innovative Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE) Building features 970 rooftop panels. Since production started in April 2019, 11 percent of all power supplied to the ECE Building has been from the array, while additional output is reserved for research and educational activities. In September 2016, the university also signed a ten-year wind power purchase agreement for 25 million kWh/year and the rights to the environmental attributes.

  3. Outage Request Form

    Associated Project(s): 

    Allen E. Wilson from Rockwell Financial Group reached out to inform F&S that there has been a complete outage request form filed by Jeff Isaacs to shut down Solar Farm 1.0 on 8/23/2021 at 7:30 AM CDT for preventative maintenance on the site's switchgear. This is a dedicated line going from Solar Farm 1.0 to distribution center 10 directly so costumers will not be affected by this outage.

  4. Spring 2021: iSEE Quarterly Update (iQ)

    The Spring 2021 iSEE Quarterly Update (iQ) was released with the following message from Madhu Khanna, the Interim Director of iSEE:

     

    Dear Colleagues,

    Attached, please find the Spring 2021 “iQ” – the quarterly update from the Institute for Sustainability, Energy, and Environment (iSEE).

    It has remained a busy time here on our campus, as we bolstered our outstanding Congress and Critical Conversation events with the addition of two experts — activist Catherine Coleman Flowers and nuclear expert Denia Djokić — who are serving as Levenick iSEE virtual resident scholars.

    Thanks to the support of experts Eban Goodstein, Tami Craig Schilling, and Harriet Hentges, our new Environmental Leadership Program workshops for undergraduates were a rousing success.

    And we were so pleased to have a mix of virtual and in-person Earth Month events to engage students, faculty, and staff from across our campus!

    Please take a quick look at those updates and more in this six-page “iQ.” For more regular news, please sign up for our E-newsletter at https://illinois.edu/fb/sec/5031776.

    Best wishes for the summer,

    Madhu

  5. Findings at the Farm - F&S Insider article

    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.

  6. Earth Month is Here!

    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 CCNetApril 30, at Noon, on ZoomClick 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: 

  7. Newsgazette Mailbag about campus renewables

    Renewable energy at the UI "How much power is each of the renewable (University of Illinois) sources generating? How many houses can each provide power for? Are there plans to add more than what we currently have? How many years does it take for the cost of each to be paid off? We have a growing interest in this and many homes now also have this."

    Morgan White, the UI's associate director of Facilities & Services for sustainability, has all your answers.

    As for power generation, she said that the UI's "on-campus solar arrays are now capable of producing over 25,000 megawatt-hours (MWh) per year and we purchase an additional 25,000 MWh/year from an off-campus wind farm in Illinois.

    "For a more comprehensive answer:

    "The (Illinois Climate Action Plan) 2020, objective 2.3.1 is: 'Use at least 140,000 MWh/year of clean power by FY25.' This objective is about clean power, which is different from clean thermal energy. As of 2020, there are three types of clean power options being pursued or used on campus.

    "1. Solar Energy on Campus: installing solar photovoltaic panels on campus property

    "2. Wind Energy on Campus: installing wind turbine generators on campus property

    "3. Power Purchase Agreements for Clean Energy: purchasing solar or wind power from off-campus

    "FYI, Solar Farm 2.0 is projected to produce 20,000,000 kWh/year. It began production at the end of January, so there will only be 5 of 12 months production in the FY21 totals (this current fiscal year)."

    As for the number of houses each can provide power for, White said, "At Facilities & Services, we use the US Energy Information Administration (EIA) for the average power use in an American home. It currently says, 'In 2019, the average annual electricity consumption for a U.S. residential utility customer was 10,649 kilowatthours (kWh).”

    "Thus, the FY20 clean power use on campus (30,635,993 kWh) was the equivalent of the power needed for 2,876 houses. Once Solar Farm 2.0 is operating for an entire year, that will be about 50,000,000 kWh/year of clean power use on campus, which is the equivalent to the power needed for 4,717 houses."

    And about whether more generation will be added, she said: "The recently released Illinois Climate Action Plan 2020 (iCAP 2020) includes a goal for increasing clean power use to 140,000 MWh/year by FY25. We are currently having internal discussions at the University of Illinois about initiating a large off-campus solar power purchase agreement to meet this goal. We are also continuing to pursue clean thermal energy solutions, such as geothermal. Additionally, large construction projects on campus are required by the state law to be LEED certified, and this will often entail the addition of clean energy systems for individual buildings."

    The payback period for each of these systems varies widely due to several factors, she said.

    "For example, the geothermal system for the Campus Instructional Facility is projected to pay for itself in 28 years, while Solar Farm 2.0 is saving money in year one," said White. "For local projects off-campus these programs are very helpful: the Solar Urbana-Champaign program typically finds solar installations to pay for themselves in six or seven years, and the Geothermal Urbana-Champaign program typically finds a geothermal system at a residential home can pay for itself within 10 years."

    https://www.news-gazette.com/toms-mailbag/toms-mailbag-feb-12-2021/artic...

  8. Local Solar projects shared at CCNet brownbag

    CCNet hosted several local solar panelists in January 2021. This Zoom meeting was also shared via Facebook Live:

    https://www.facebook.com/watch/live/?v=429039901765435&ref=watch_permalink

    Join the CCNet mailing list to gain access to the Zoom and stay connected. http://eepurl.com/g8IM

    (video link corrected on 2-2-2021)

  9. FY20 Green Power Partnership renewed

    F&S has renewed our campus' recognition as a Green Power Partner for FY20 through the Environmental Protection Agency. This voluntary program promotes the use of green power, and the combined supply for the Champaign-Urbana campus during FY20 was 7.2% of the total electricity usage. 

    Please see the attached file to see a more in-depth look at the green power supplied and generated on campus

  10. Site visit with ISU VR Tour creators

    Sol Systems and F&S hosted visitors from Illinois State University today, to initiate development of a Virtual Reality tour of Solar Farm 2.0. The intention is to develop a walking path that will be repeated by the camerawoman at four key timeframes this fall: post installation, tracker installation, module installation, and electrical installation.

  11. The Day After Tomorrow: Following Advancements of the New U of I Solar

    CUYSS Team|8/5/2020

    The Youth Climate Justice Forum presents this podcast series in which we will be trying to find ways for all of us to continue to work for climate justice during and after the coronavirus crisis. This week, Caroline and Grace interview Morgan White, Director of Sustainability at University of Illinois Facilities and Services. They are currently working to construct the University’s newest solar farm, building upon what they learned from their last solar project.

    https://youthclimateforum.wixsite.com/summit/podcast/episode/f942d20f/the-day-after-tomorrow-following-advancements-of-the-new-u-of-i-solar-farm

  12. Collaborating with ISU to develop Virtual Tours

    Matt Hagamann from Illinois State University (ISU) is leading a team to develop a Virtual Tour of the University of Illinois Solar Farms. In a July 2020 email, he explained:

    "Our project is funded through the Illinois Science & Energy Innovation Foundation, whose goal is to "address the human and community sides of energy and the electric grid," in our case through energy literacy programs.  Our current programs reach up to 25,000 students each year, but we're working on some digital resources which we hope will expand our impact.

     

    The digital project I would like to collaborate with your office on is a virtual reality project, where we expose students to technology, sustainability, and careers through an immersive experience.  We're targeting both a full VR experience as well as a more limited experience designed for smartphones.

     

    Our goal is to help students explore someplace they wouldn't normally have access to, in this case a solar farm.  After recording some footage using a 360-degree camera, we can let students explore that environment, read some virtual signage, then "tap" some workers on the shoulder in order to learn more about their job."

     

     

  13. Mailbag solar article: Suggestion for UI solar panels

    "Why doesn't the company installing the solar panels at U of I put them over the parking lot? I would provide shade for the cars underneath and would eliminate having to kill whatever would be underneath them in the fields."

    The best option for building solar panels is ground-mounted, said Morgan White, the associate director for sustainability at the University of Illinois.

    "As part of our Climate Leadership Commitments the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign has a goal of producing at least 25,000 megawatt-hours (MWh) per year from on-campus solar," she said. "When we evaluated options for meeting this goal, rooftop solar, solar over parking areas, and ground-mounted solar were all considered. The most cost-effective option is ground-mounted solar, and it also allows for larger-scale installations.

    "For a sense of the scale, the two solar farms will be a total of 75 acres, while the largest parking lot on campus is less than 15 acres.

    "When installing solar panels over parking areas, there are additional infrastructure and labor costs to raise the solar panels above the ground level. Although we do not currently have any solar over parking areas, Facilities & Services is working with the Parking Department to evaluate potential locations for a pilot installation. We are also continuing to install rooftop solar on individual buildings."

    Solar panels are on the following five Urbana campus buildings:

    — Business Instructional Facility

    — the Activities & Recreation Center

    — Wassaja Residence Hall

    — University High School Gymnasium

    — Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE) Building.

    "I'd also like to emphasize that the ground-mounted solar panels do not harm the plants under them. After building the first Solar Farm, we learned that there was an excellent opportunity for growing useful plants under and around the panels," said White. "This is a great opportunity for creating a multi-functional ecosystem, with pollinator supportive plants and protected areas for small animals and insects."

    https://www.news-gazette.com/toms-mailbag/toms-mailbag-june-26-2020/article_65ef2976-09b9-526a-848d-1419c905b0ec.html

     

  14. FY19 Green Power Partnership renewal submitted

    F&S completed the renewal of our recognition as a Green Power Partner through the US Environmental Protection Agency. Green Power Partners of our scale now have to use renewable power for seven percent of their annual consumption, an increase from the previous requirement of three percent. Fortunately, the FY19 green power supply for FY19 was 7.28%.  See attached file.

    Overview submitted: The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign is proud of its sustainability initiatives, as documented in the Illinois Climate Action Plan. The first project was a 32.76 kilowatt (kW) solar photovoltaic (PV) array on the Business Instructional Facility in 2009. The 14.7 kW PV array, ground mounted at the Building Research Council, is a research platform for the Information Trust Institute. The most significant on-campus renewable energy generation project to date went into operation in December 2015, with the completion of the 5.87 megawatt (MW) Solar Farm, producing approximately 7,200 MWh/year. In December 2015 another solar array was installed on the new Wassaja Residence Hall roof with a capacity of 33 kW. In September 2016, campus signed a ten-year Wind Power Purchase Agreement for 25 million kWh/year. Most recently, the Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE) Building had 970 rooftop panels installed. Since production began in April 2019, 11% of all power supplied to the ECE Building has been from the rooftop panels, not including the panels that are used for student-oriented research. The University will soon be home to Solar Farm 2.0, which is projected to produce 20,000 MWh/year, nearly tripling on-site production.

  15. Twin Cities Amateur Radio welcome Solar Farm presentation

    Associated Project(s): 

    Tuesday, January 14th, Morgan White was welcomed by the Twin City Amateur Rado Club to share all there is to know about the University's first solar farm. She spoke on the process of getting such a project on campus, and the good news about a second solar farm that will be on campus by Winter 2020

  16. Cruze Barn new address

    Associated Project(s): 

    The Cruze Barn was moved as part of the agreement with the Student Sustainability Committee for their funding support of the first solar farm. It was moved by Trillium Dell, and it is now located at 316 Leman Lane, Congerville, IL.

  17. Washington Post article: The next money crop for farmers: Solar panels

    The Washington Post published an article on February 22, 2019, about how farmers are making the transition to solar based on current corn and soybean price drops, and the implications of that. Evan DeLucia is quoted in this article.

    See attached or follow the link to read the article.

    https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/economy/the-next-money-crop-for-...

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