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Projects Updates for Solar Farm 2.0

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  1. 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...

  2. 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)

  3. Sol Systems Blog about SEE Fellows student project

    Sol Systems published a blog today sharing information about the collaborations with the UIUC Sustainability, Energy, and Environment Fellows program, the campus-wide minor in sustainability.  

    "This past week, two groups of students from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign presented to Sol Systems regarding their findings through the university’s sustainability minor capstone course. The students conducted an emissions audit for supply chain and land-usage for the university’s second utility-scale solar project, Solar Farm 2.0, a 54-acre, 12.3 MW dc system on the Urbana campus that is being developed by Sol Systems. The presentation and partnership served as part of Sol’s sustainability initiatives and acts as the foundation for building Sol’s framework for future and current solar project developments...."

    Read the full post online at https://www.solsystems.com/groundwork-for-solar-sustainability/. 

  4. Solar Farm construction update for November 2020

    Associated Project(s): 

    F&S Management Engineer, Sushanth Girini, provided an update on the Solar Farm 2.0 construction progress.  One key point is that 65% of the panel installation is complete as of 11/23.

     

    Points regarding the progress: 

    • Currently the project is working on installing all the panels on the posts. As of Nov. 23, 2020, Sol Systems completed 258 out of 399 rows of panels, so approximately 65% of panel installation is complete.
    • The pads have been poured and all major equipment placed (inverters and transformers), currently working on wiring the whole network. The mechanical in service (construction complete without inspection & commissioning) date is Dec 16th 2020 as per current schedule.
    • Received all panels on site, racking equipment and all major equipment such as inverters and transformers, awaiting the switchgear delivery, which is due on 11/30.
    • Working with U of I's F&S Waste Management team to achieve a zero waste goal for this project by recycling all the boxes and other materials.
    • Every employee who works on site is checked for temperatures before entering the site as a safety precaution against covid-19.

    Thank you,

    Sushanth Girini

  5. F&S Executive Director Dr. Mohamed Attalla talks Solar Farm 2.0 on The Solar Podcast

    Associated Project(s): 

    Dr. Mohamed Attalla, the Executive Director of Facilities and Services, recently spoke on the Solar Podcast about the progress made at the University of Illinois in regards to green energy with the addition of Solar Farm 2.0.  Dr. Mohamed Attalla was alongside Pedro De La Barra, the Project Manager for Sol Systems, as they discussed the working relationship between the University and those at Sol Systems. Solar Farm 2.0 is expected to be producing solar energy in early 2021. 

     

    Please see the link below to listen to this podcast!

    https://fs.illinois.edu/resources/newsroom/2020/10/28/podcast-dr.-attalla-joins-the-solar-podcast

     

     

     

  6. October 2020 construction progress

    Associated Project(s): 

    For this month's progress, the fence has been installed and the statistics are as follows:

     

    191 rows with motors and partial torque tubes.

    103 with all torque tubes and ready for panels.

    79 rows of panels.

     

    These numbers are included in each other, i.e., the 103 is included in the 191 and the 79 is included in the 103.

    Thank you,

     

    Sushanth Girini

    Management Engineer,

    Facilities & Services,
    UES-Utility Distribution, UIUC

  7. Solar Farm 2.0 in F&S Quarterly Report

    Associated Project(s): 

    SOLAR FARM 2.0 CONSTRUCTION UNDERWAY
    Construction started on the University of Illinois at Urbana- Champaign’s Solar Farm 2.0 in August, with a commercial operation date expected for early 2021. The new 54-acre, 12.1 megawatt (MWdc) solar array is located north of Curtis Road, between First Street and U.S. Route 45, next to the Village of Savoy. Once completed, the solar farm will produce 20,000 MWh annually, almost tripling the university’s existing on-site renewable energy generation. Through a combination of utility-scale installations, integrated facility rooftop arrays, and wind power purchase agreements, clean power usage at the U of I will increase to more than 52,000 MWh per year, which is over 10 percent of the campus electrical demand. Faculty have already identified research projects that will use the Solar Farm 2.0 installation, primarily related to the pollinator-supportive plants under and around the panels.

  8. Solar Farm 2.0 construction update from Sushanth Girini at F&S

    Associated Project(s): 

    The Solar Farm 2.0 construction is on schedule to be in service by 1/28/2021. Currently the project is installing approximately 4,400 posts in ground for the panel foundations. One of key objectives is to complete the Golden Row* by end of this month. Once the golden row is completed, inspected, and approved, the construction will be in full force to reach completion. The university is scheduled to perform routine inspections and capture all the underground equipment GPS points for reference. A recycling plan is in place, and the project is coordinating with F&S Transportation to collect the recyclable waste. The installation of a utility switch on the east side of the farm is complete.

    Procurement: We have received all the racking equipment and about 80% of the solar panel on site. Transformers and inverters are scheduled to be delivered by end of Oct 2020.

    ~by Sushanth Girini, management engineer at F&S Utilities and Energy Services

     

    Golden Row - is a single row of solar panel constructed by the construction crew. Once the project make sure all the connections are good and row is as per design, it gets approved. It's like a start of what's coming. Like a movie trailer!

  9. 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.

  10. Archived info - previous project description

    Associated Project(s): 

    Construction of a new 54-acre, 12.1 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 in 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.

    Project Inception

    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.

    Project Overview

    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.

    Pollinator Habitat

    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.

  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. Curtis Road landscaping

    Tom's Mailbag in the News-Gazette included information about the Solar Farm 2.0 landscape buffer: https://www.news-gazette.com/toms-mailbag/toms-mailbag-june-19-2020/article_ddf7f640-1c32-5024-98b0-74d8f4ecaa7e.html

    Curtis Road landscaping

    "Curtis Road from Neil Street and First Street in Savoy,  why are they planting several rows of tree and bushes?

    The work underway in that location is for a landscaped buffer between the University of Illinois' Solar Farm 2.0 site and the village of Savoy, said Morgan White, associate director for sustainability at the University of Illinois.

    "Since the start of the project, the university has incorporated the feedback of nearby residents and businesses in planning aspects to ensure that area is aesthetically pleasing and limits the future visibility of the array directly from Curtis Road," she said. "The buffer was designed by the University Landscape Architect at Facilities & Services, Brent Lewis, and it consists of native trees, shrubs and perennials specifically selected for their aesthetics and pollinator benefits.

    "The trees were funded by the Student Sustainability Committee, and the remaining costs were provided by Facilities & Services and the Institute for Sustainability, Energy, and Environment.

    "This extensive buffer planting, along with the 54 acres of native perennials and grasses under the solar panels, will help to establish a diverse pollinator habitat and strengthen ecosystems for local and migratory birds and insects, including butterflies and bees. This effort supports the university's commitment as a 'Bee Campus USA,' proving progress in awareness, native plant landscapes, and safe pest management.

    "When completed, the site will also serve as a demonstration for pollinator-friendly solar arrays, following the requirements of the Pollinator Friendly Solar Site Act, of which the university has taken the lead in creating."

  15. Design drawings being reviewed

    Associated Project(s): 

    The construction drawings for civil and electrical design for the solar farm 2.0 project are being reviewed by F&S, both design review and utilities and energy services, and should be completed in the next two weeks.

  16. SOLAR FARM LANDSCAPE BUFFER

    SOLAR FARM LANDSCAPE BUFFER
    F&S representatives shared detailed designs for the pollinator supportive landscape buffer along the future Solar Farm 2.0 site to the Village of Savoy. Village leaders were pleased with the design plans and thanked us for being responsive to their neighborly request. When completed, this site will serve as a demonstration for pollinator-friendly solar arrays, following the requirements of the Pollinator Friendly Solar Site Act (Illinois Pub. Act 100-1022). Solar Farm 2.0 will produce approximately 20,000 megawatt-hours (MWh) annually, and will generate the equivalent electricity use of more than 2,000 average American homes.

  17. archived info - previous project description

    Associated Project(s): 

    In order to reach the iCAP objective of 25,000 MWh/year of solar energy by FY25, additional panels will need to be installed.  Large scale, ground mounted panels appear to be the least expensive route towards achieving the FY25 objective.

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