You are here

Projects Updates for Sustainability Outreach

  1. Solar Urbana-Champaign Bulk Solar Purchase Program Finishes Strong

    Associated Project(s): 


    Contact: Peter Murphy, MREA Solar Program Manager,

    Solar Urbana-Champaign Bulk Solar Purchase Program Finishes Strong

    Urbana, IL– November 20, 2017. Claire Johnson and Jill Houser have just finished installing solar panels on Andy Robinson’s roof as part of the Solar Urbana-Champaign 2.0 program. They are  members of New Prairie Construction’s solar installation team, and part of a mostly female crew. They and other teams from New Prairie Construction will be installing 446.95 kilowatts of solar on 58 properties across Champaign County as a result of the program, which helped people save on solar through volume purchasing. Robinson not only went solar through the program, he also helped to lead it.

    Please find the full story below, along with installation photos of Andy Robinson's system. Photo credit Andy Robinson.

    Kaitlyn Kohl

    Communications Coordinator

    Midwest Renewable Energy Association (MREA)

    7558 Deer Road, Custer, WI 54423


    Learn from the leaders in our year-round, professional courses.

    Become a proud member of the MREA! 


    November 20, 2017

    Contact: Peter Murphy, MREA Solar Program Manager,

    Solar Urbana-Champaign Bulk Solar Purchase Program Finishes Strong

    Claire Johnson and Jill Houser have just finished installing solar panels on Andy Robinson’s roof as part of the Solar Urbana-Champaign 2.0 program. They are  members of New Prairie Construction’s solar installation team, and part of a mostly female crew. They and other teams from New Prairie Construction will be installing 446.95 kilowatts of solar on 58 properties across Champaign County as a result of the program, which helped people save on solar through volume purchasing. Robinson not only went solar through the program, he also helped to lead it.

    “I’ve thought solar was a cool way to reduce our carbon footprint ever since seeing the 2007 UI solar decathlon house in DC, but it also needed to make financial sense for our family,” said Robinson, who was hired by the Midwest Renewable Energy Association (MREA) to facilitate the education sessions, called “Solar Power Hours,” for the program. “Now we will offset nearly all of our electric use and it was a good financial investment.  New Prairie laid out the panels on the front and back roof in a way that looks like it is a part of the design of our 1920 house. We were especially happy to meet the diverse install crew of local women and men, and a highly qualified refugee.”

    “In the 1980’s, Jill and I got our start in construction through the woman-owned company Working Women Construction,” said Julie Birdwell, owner of New Prairie Construction. “When we started New Prairie Construction, we made a commitment to providing opportunities for women. We never regretted it. Our New Prairie women contribute more than just diversity. They help contribute to a positive work culture and maintain a high level of attention to detail and craftsmanship.”

    “When we think about the benefits of solar energy, we often picture environmental benefits, of which there are of course many,” said Peter Murphy, Solar Program Manager at Midwest Renewable Energy Association (MREA). “But what often gets overlooked is the growing number of solar jobs, which are local and by nature cannot be outsourced.”

    “One out of every 50 new jobs added in the United States in 2016 was created by the solar industry, representing 2% percent of all new jobs,” according to The Solar Foundation, a nonprofit organization that conducts a national solar jobs census.

    “We recently had an opportunity to hire an Afghan national who worked in construction for the US military in Afghanistan,” said Birdwell. “Hiring such a refugee is a way of acknowledging the risks and sacrifices he and his family have made to support our country. In addition, he and our other employees from different cultures and countries provide positive contributions to our work culture, and we feel, our overall product.”

    “In the first day of solar production, our kids said that we were vacuuming with sunshine,” said Robinson. “And they are right.”

    “The electricity produced by the 446 kW of solar the program has contracted will offset around 639,035 lbs of CO2 being released into atmosphere in the first year alone,” said Scott Tess, Environmental Sustainability Manager at the City of Urbana. “That amount of solar energy will also save almost 10 million gallons of water from use in thermoelectric power plants that run on coal or natural gas.”

    The program was administered by the MREA at no cost to the city or the county. MREA has successfully implemented similar programs in other jurisdictions in Illinois, Iowa, and Wisconsin as seen in Milwaukee, Cedar Rapids, Bloomington-Normal, and elsewhere. Solarize programs have taken place all over the country, from California to Maine.

    "The solar branch of New Prairie Construction Co. is a natural extension of our commitment to providing high quality, environmentally responsible solutions for homes and businesses," says Julie Birdwell, co-owner of New Prairie. "Solar Urbana-Champaign 2.0 provides an excellent opportunity for our community to use the power of bulk purchasing to get premium quality installations for a great price.  We are excited to work with our neighbors to help increase sustainability and energy independence in Champaign County."

    MREA issued a request for proposals to solar installers in January. A local advisory committee reviewed proposals based on professional certification, experience, and cost. They selected New Prairie Construction Co., based in Urbana. They were chosen as the solar installer for the second Solar Group Buy because of their high-quality solar installations, building science expertise, and emphasis on customer service.


    The MREA was incorporated as a 501(c)3 nonprofit shortly after the first Energy Fair in 1990. MREA’s mission is to promote renewable energy, energy efficiency, and sustainable living through education and demonstration. To learn more, call 715-592-6595 or visit or

  2. High School students go on tour of Green Infrastructure at UIUC

    Eliana Brown with the Water Resources Center and Morgan Johnston with F&S Sustainability provided a two hour tour on July 13, 2017 to six Illinois high school students through the NRES Research Apprenticeship program. Sites visited include the BIF green roof, the Ikenberry Commons permeable pavement, the First Street underground stormwater detention basin, the "square pond" (six-story deep hole near Locust and Springfield), the Boneyard Creek, and the stormwater murals in the College of Engineering.

  3. archived info - previous project description

    Associated Project(s): 

    A main component of the 2010 iCAP is to engage the outside community in working to create a more sustainable campus. The University of  Illinois is working to enhance its engagement activities in the arena of sustainability. Champaign County Network (CCNet) is an effort to engage the campus and the surrounding community in a shared discourse on the critical sustainability and climate issues ahead. The University's Office of Corporate Relations is working to enhance collaborations with corporations in sustainability activities.

    The iCAP provides an opportunity to engage the outside community in a dialogue on the University’s role in helping to resolve community climate responses. For example, the Smart Energy Design Assistance Center (SEDAC) is designed to provide assistance to public and private interests in reducing and conserving their operational energy use in buildings. This type of information is an important step in developing meaningful solutions to climate change.

  4. UC Solar

    Associated Project(s): 

    Last chance to learn about solar at a Power Hour tomorrow at Common Ground

    Last chance to learn about solar at a Power Hour tomorrow at Common Ground




    Solar Urbana-Champaign 
    Surpasses 250 kW goal!!

    We are extremely proud to announce that we have surpassed the 250 kW benchmark! Right now we have 280 kW and counting. As you know, due to our program design, all participants get a total of 3% off their solar array now that we have collectively reached 250 kW. We have only one more Solar Power Hour remaining, so now's your chance to attend if you haven't already. Our final Power Hour is tomorrow night (Tuesday, May 10) at the Common Ground Food Co-op. Last December, we launched the program at Common Ground, and had no way of knowing how incredibly pro-solar the community would be. Tomorrow as we convene there again, we can look back at a stellar program in a stellar community. You are truly an amazing bunch! You can still let your friends, neighbors, relatives, and networks know about this program and how they can go solar. Help spread the word to your networks! Forward this email to 3 of your contacts!


    Questions? Concerns?



    The Midwest Renewable Energy Association (MREA) promotes renewable energy, energy efficiency, and sustainable living through education and demonstration.

    To learn more about our work, visit


    Learn more and sign up at

    Share this email:

    Manage your preferences | Opt out using TrueRemove™
    Got this as a forward? Sign up to receive our future emails.
    View this email online.

    7558 Deer Road
    Custer, WI | 54423 US

    This email was sent to
    To continue receiving our emails, add us to your address book.


  5. Renewables presentation to MSTE

    The Office for Mathematics, Science, and Technology Education in the College of Education hosted Morgan Johnston as a guest speaker on February 27.  One part of the overall Climate Action Plan is to increase the use of renewable energy generation for our campus power requirements. This presentation reviewed the progress toward increased use of renewables for our campus, and discussed current efforts underway, including the forthcoming Solar Farm.

  6. February 2014 meeting notes from first Student Sustainability Leadership Council (SSLC) meeting

    The first formal meeting with the Student Sustainability Leadership Council (SSLC) under iSEE's guidance was an introductory meeting about iSEE and the proposed iCAP SWATeams. 

    The meeting was called by and coordinated by:

    • Ben McCall – Associate Director for Campus Sustainability, iSEE
    • Madhu Khanna – Associate Director for Education and Outreach, iSEE
    • Nishant Makhijani – iSEE Intern, Vice - Chair Student Sustainability Committee

    The key points discussed included an overview of iSEE's goals and structure, education and outreach plans, and an overview of the SWATeams.

  7. How to Make Your Campus Green presentations

    Associated Project(s): 

    Morgan Johnston met with a delegation from Mumbai, India, to tell them how we are making our campus more sustainable. 

    Jack Dempsey has been asked to speak to two different delegations this June about the same topic.    The first group is from  a group of private universities in India, sponsored by the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI), and is coming on a program promoted by Pradeep Khanna and his staff in Corporate Relations.  The second group is from a group of institutions in Pakistan with whom we have had a longstanding relationship:  COMSATS Institutes of Information Technology. 

  8. Spring iCAP Forum Held

    Associated Project(s): 

    At the spring iCAP Forum, sustainability staff presented a status update about progress towards meeting our commitments in the Illinois Climate Action Plan.  This included a broad overview of the various initiatives that are currently underway and a summary of the next steps in this process.  After the presentation, participants were asked to work in groups to provide feedback about setting priorities for further iCAP implementation.  A summary of the feedback will be available after the Spring 2012 semester.

  9. Engagement with other schools, information sharing

    Associated Project(s): 

    We participated in meeting with representatives from Columbia, Missouri about their transit goals.  Articles were written about the visit:,, and

    We also provided information to Arizona State University about our bike registration system and intentions.

  10. Monthly press on sustainability on campus

    Associated Project(s): 

    Engineering News Record is doing a story on the University of Illinois about green buildings/LEED certification.

    Daily Illini article about campus sustainability progress.

    Staff created flowcharts for sustainability themes, as preliminary step to filling in the content on the Sustainability Portal website.  Staff provided field definitions and sample data for the database tables that will be available through the portal.  Also, we met with staff from MSTE and drafted the page layouts for the website, which will be shared at the iCAP Forum in April. 

  11. Press on U of I Sustainability Efforts

    Associated Project(s): 

    Staff continued working with the Office for Mathematics, Science, and Technology Education (MSTE) on the sustainability portal.  The portal will host a database of the iCAP/sustainability projects for campus, with searchable details about the projects, people, funding, and metrics.

    Staff met with Inside Illinois to develop an article about campus sustainability.  The article is online at

    The Alumni Magazine included a story about being a Bronze Level Bicycle Friendly University.

  12. Partnerships, Engagement in Local Efforts

    Associated Project(s): 

    On February 16, CCNet hosted Angela Adams, the Recycling Coordinator at the City of Champaign, to explain the proposed bag ban in the city; Pattsi Petrie, a Champaign County Board Member, to discuss local foods; Mike Monson, the Urbana Chief of Staff, to explain the Electrical Aggregation proposal; and Marya Ryan, from the Urbana Sustainability Advisory Commission to review the City of Urbana’s Climate Action Plan.

    Staff facilitated meetings with students and staff about potential letters of support for the City of Champaign Single Use Disposable Paper and Plastic Bags study item.

    In an effort to standardize emissions calculations throughout the community and county, staff met with transportation planners from the Regional Planning Commission to share information about calculating transportation emissions.

  13. Continuing Partnerships and Engagement

    Associated Project(s): 

    The Office of Sustainability hosted the first monthly CCNet Sustainability meeting of 2012 on January 19. The meeting had 39 attendees, including faculty, staff, students, local government employees, and members of the community. There was a presentation and discussion led by SEDAC about the organization’s work and national energy trends.  CCNet Meetings will continue throughout 2012, taking place at noon on the third Thursday of each month, at the Natural Resources Building, room 101.

    Sustainability employees from campus, Urbana, Champaign and the Regional Planning Commission (RPC) continue to collaborate. In January, we discussed each agency’s respective greenhouse gas inventories. It was decided that Champaign and Urbana will include any University emissions which fall within their respective jurisdictional boundaries in their city-wide reports. For the purposes of local reporting, the University will be considered a separate entity that overlays both cities, similar to any other business entity, rather than a distinct jurisdiction. It was also decided that a separate meeting will be necessary to specifically address transportation-related emissions and how each entity is tracking and reporting on these.

    The YMCA/YWCA on Wright Street requested a meeting to discuss their sustainability efforts and how the University may be able to assist. They are working on building improvements and changes to their parking and outdoor space. We gave them suggestions of people they may want to contact for input and advice.

    Sustainability staff attended an Illinois Green Business Association (IGBA) networking event and talked with IGBA board members about potential future collaborations.

    The City of Champaign Recycling Coordinator requested information about the impacts of plastic and paper bags on campus facilities and the campus waste stream. She also requested letters of support for a bag ban from student environmental groups.

    Sustainability staff attend monthly conference calls/webinars of the Governor’s Green Universities and Colleges subcommittee.  In January, there was a presentation at ISTC about weatherization of campus buildings, and the disconnect between LEED certification and weatherization practices.

  14. Corporate Relations meeting about database

    Associated Project(s): 

    Sustainability staff met with Corporate Relations to discuss the potential for developing a database of sustainability research at Illinois.  Corporate Relations already has a database for water related research that is very detailed.  Future meetings are planned to move forward with this project.

  15. Sustainability Portal

    Associated Project(s): 

    The OS is working with MSTE to develop the Illinois Sustainability Portal, an online hub for sustainability-related information on the Urbana-Champaign campus.  We met with MSTE several times in January to develop the site architecture and database structure for the site. A preview of the site will be shared during Earth Week (April 16-20). When complete, the portal will be the go-to place for people to learn about all iCAP projects and goals, to submit ideas for consideration, and to research historical data about emissions and other sustainability metrics.  Additionally, project leaders will be able to report to the OS on their progress and plans. We envision this to be an incredibly useful tool going forward.

Subscribe to