University of Oregon Goes Solar

A new 40 kW solar electric system is now up and running at the University of Oregon’s Student Recreation Center. Eighty-four solar modules, perched above the basketball courts at the center will offset a portion of the facility’s electric bill and serve as a model for future energy conscious campus development.

“The project, initiated and funded by University of Oregon students, demonstrates their desire for a sunnier future and shows their commitment to address problems facing this nation and the world in a positive manner,” said Frank Vignola, director of the University of Oregon Solar Energy Center. “The University of Oregon has a reputation for environmental leadership and it is the students who are forging the path to a healthier more sustainable future.” This is the second phase of a three-part project that started In the spring of 2001, when the Ecological Design Center (EDC) was awarded a $100,000 grant by the student government to install a grid-tied photovoltaic (PV) system on university rooftops. The grant’s goal was to fund enduring and environmentally responsible projects that benefit the entire student body. The installation companies were Energy Design and Solar Assist, both based in Eugene, Oregon. The final phase of the project will conclude with a solar information kiosk in the Rec Center. The kiosk will contain a monitor to show students in real-time how much energy the panels are producing, and how much energy they’ve produced over their lifetime. It will also contain a series of displays giving general information about the benefits of solar power, including; the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, the decentralization of power production, and the lack of dependence on foreign oil. The Ecological Design Center was able to increase the size of the project by 25 percent by taking advantage of a tax credit given by the Oregon Department of Energy for renewable energy projects. The original proposal to the ASUO outlined three main goals of the project: to produce clean, renewable energy; to put the UO on the map as a “green” campus; and to generate energy that would save money for the student body. The project is meant as a showcase for future energy-conscious development on campus. A multi-departmental cooperative effort made this project possible. “What’s really amazing is that this is a student-funded project,” said Vince McClellan, Solar contractor/ LCC solar instructor. “They [the students] could have chosen to spend the money on a block party instead of solar. People say that university students have lost their voice and no longer care about making the world a better place. What I see is that students have become more practical in their activism than they were in the sixties and seventies. Funding a project like this is one of the strongest statements that can be made toward a peaceful and sustainable world. ”
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